Brian Dutcher and his staff recently hosted four basketball players for official visits.
Among them was 6’8” Elijah Saunders from the class of 2022. Saunders, a power forward, attends Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, Arizona. He took to Twitter to announce his commitment to Aztecs this evening. Finalists for Saunders’ services included Miami, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech. He is a consensus top 150 recruit nationally.
Among his finalists, SDSU was the first to offer. According to his Twitter, they extended a scholarship on June 29. South Carolina followed on July 10, Miami on July 19, Virginia Tech on August 9, and Notre Dame on August 17. Saunders’ late offers reflect his late ascension into a national recruit.
Saunders’ game is reminiscent of former Aztec J.J. O’Brien.
He plays at his own pace, one that is more methodical than slow. Saunders is an efficient player who is more fundamental than flashy. His athleticism is sneaky, but his size and impressive frame are not.
It is easy to see why Dutcher coveted his services. He should have no problem playing in SDSU’s positionless system and should thrive in the freedom given to Aztec players. At the college level, he should have the ability to guard traditional small and power forwards while being able to hold his own against any other position on the court. This will allow Dutcher to be creative with his defensive sets.
Saunders is the first commitment for the class of 2022. As college basketball adjusts to the new one-time transfer rule, it will be worth following how many true freshmen SDSU brings in next year. This season, they brought in six new players, only one true freshman, Demarshay Johnson.
— Elijah Saunders (@elijahsaunders_) September 24, 2021
Saunders profiles like other recent additions to the Aztecs in another area. He kept his recruitment relatively low profile, considering he is a national recruit. When Matt Bradley announced his transfer to SDSU, it seemingly came out of nowhere.
SDSU has developed a program with a reputation for preparing players to succeed at the next level in life. Kawhi Leonard, Malachi Flynn, and Jalen McDaniels have found success in the NBA. Skyler Spencer, Jamaal Franklin, Marcus Slaughter, and a host of others have found success playing overseas. DJ Gay, Nerbah Ebrahimian, and others have found success off the court. Saunders chose to trust that he will be the next in a line of successful players who have come through the Mesa.
“We’re not (a coaching staff) who puts our chests out,” SDSU assistant coach David Velasquez told EVT this week. “We let the championships speak for themselves. We take a lot of pride in (coaching). Coach Fisher taught us a long time ago, the basketball court is our classroom, and we are teachers at heart. We not only teach them the game of basketball. We try to help them go from young men to men.”