PISCATAWAY — Corey Sanders didn’t mean for the moment to happen the way it did.
The junior guard entered his 72nd career game for Rutgers three points shy of his 1,000th career point as a Scarlet Knight, a milestone which seemed further away with each passing second he didn’t reach it. Sanders racked up just two points in his first 16 minutes on the floor against Fordham, leaving the 3,389 in the building holding their breath for the one final score.
He played uncharacteristically passive through the first half, constantly feeding teammates in favor of his patented habit of attacking the rim. At times, his selflessness was to a fault as he turned the ball over four times in the opening period.
“I really wasn’t thinking about (the 1,000 points), I was letting it come to me,” Sanders said. “I didn’t want to force up anything, I was going to mess up the offense if I did so I was just playing ball, letting it come.”
The moment came to him with 50 ticks left until halftime. It was then that Sanders went vintage. He grabbed the rebound on the defensive end, dribbled it up the court, crossed his defender over at the top of the key, stutter stepped as he reached the elbow and threw up a wild shot at the rim.
Nothing but net — even if Sanders didn’t intend it that way. And just like that, 1KPG the rapper became 1KPG the point guard.
“I really didn’t mean to shoot that shot,” Sanders said. “If you see it on the tape, I didn’t mean to shoot it. I got caught in the air and I guess that was God saying that was going to be it.”
With six seconds to go, Rutgers called a timeout and the crowd gave Sanders a standing ovation he won’t ever forget.
Corey Sanders gets a standing ovation after he becomes the 42nd Scarlet Knight to reach 1,000 career points. pic.twitter.com/sFLr8PtQH0— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) December 13, 2017
“Felt great to see the 1K on the board,” Sanders said. “I love Rutgers. I’ve been here, this is my third year, everybody’s treating me well, haven’t had any problems with anybody here. It’s great to see that standing ovation, the support they have for me, I appreciate everyone who came out tonight.”
To commemorate the moment, Sanders will receive a ball from head coach Steve Pikiell before the Scarlet Knights clash with rivals No. 15 Seton Hall in Saturday’s Garden State Hardwood Classic. In the days leading up to that moment, Sanders looks back on the ups and downs of his time on the Banks.
“It makes you reflect on everything that’s happened,” Sanders said. “Like I’ve said, I’ve been through coaching changes, just a lot of adversity, things that regular college players don’t go through. Coming from where I come from, it’s a dream come true. When he hands me that ball … it’s really going to go to my grandma. She’s the one that supports me the hardest, she’s behind me with everything I do, so that ball is going to her. I don’t know what she’s going to do with it, put it up somewhere, but that’s her ball.
Still, with more than half of his junior season to go, there is plenty of work to do.
“It means everything,” Sanders said. “I came here to be a part of history, change things around and I feel like that’s just step one. Hopefully, now i pass that on and we get to try to make history in the win column. That would be the best thing for us.”
“I don’t really usually talk about individual accolades, but, 1,000 points. I’m really excited,” Pikiell added. “That’s a huge accomplishment ... 1,000 points is a special thing in this league ... For him to do that, it’s a credit. He works hard, he’s gotten better too, and he’s got to do that against some good competition. This is a heck of a league and people are out to stop him. ... So, again. I’m a team goal guy but 1,000 points is a tremendous accomplishment.”