EDINBURG — Edinburg High senior Brianna Sanchez, who was one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most dominant two-way centers during her four-year high school career, has committed to relocate down the road and play college basketball at UTRGV.
“I’m extremely grateful that I got an opportunity to play at the next level, especially here in my hometown where I grew up and where I know everybody,” Sanchez said. “Being around family was something that I really wanted to do and it was something that I was looking for college wise. I was thinking about if my family was going to be able to go see me play since I’ve always been real close to them.
“I got offers to go play at juco schools and DII and DIII schools, and I really liked other programs, but this being here at home made it a lot easier and I really love the program and the coaches and how they treat each other and the respect that the players and coaches have together.”
Sanchez will become the third local high school hoops players to sign with the UTRGV women’s program in recent years joining freshman guard Mia Paz and junior guard Valeria Tapia, who played at Brownsville Hanna and Brownsville St. Joseph.
She also becomes the second Bobcat this season to elevate her basketball career to the next level joining long-time teammate Leslie Martinez, who signed to play at Coastal Bend College on Saturday evening.
More specifically, though, Sanchez’s signing marks the intersection of UTRGV, the region’s flagship DI university, and Edinburg High, one of the Valley’s powerhouse programs, for the first time with obvious advantages for each Edinburg school.
“It’s definitely something that I love. I love that I’m going to have some familiar faces that are going to be there with me at school,” she said. “I’m going to have people I’ve known since I was walking in the park when I was a little girl (watching). I think that it’s just going to help going through college and graduating being happier with all those close friends around.”
“I’m excited for her,” Edinburg High head coach John David Salinas said. “To this day, I still get emails on her asking if she’s committed anywhere. She’s got a great opportunity there with coach (Lane) Lord at UTRGV. She gets to stay home, tuition is going to be very reasonable for her and then she’ll have the excitement of being able to play at a Division I program right here in Edinburg’s backyard.”
UTRGV will be inheriting one of the Valley’s most dominant high school post players in recent memory once Sanchez officially joins the lineup.
The Bobcats 6-foot-2 center played four years of varsity ball and during her senior season, she averaged 7.9 points and 1.5 steals per game while also holding team-highs in rebounds (12.1) and blocks (2.1) per contest.
Sanchez was a dynamic floor general operating from the top of the key, creating space for the Bobcats shooters and slashers and was a putback machine within arms reach of the rim.
“Our program revolves a lot around our ability to shoot the 3, in fact we ended up being the 6A champions in 3-point field goals made in the whole state of Texas. We certainly shoot the 3 and big Bri paid. She took that role and never complained about it,” Salinas said. “She scored when she had the opportunity to score, we fed her when we had the opportunity to feed her. She gets the ball there at the block and she’s kicking it out to shooters that she knows can hit that shot.”
Her physicality and grit helped her own opposing teams on the glass and make the paint an unofficial no-fly zone. Sanchez’s lockdown low-post defense flustered her opponents, who often sought to emulate the Edinburg High center rather than outmatch her.
Weslaco High center Morgan Peralez, The Monitor’s All-Area Co-Newcomer of the Year, said she looked up to Sanchez during her freshman year and in the midst of their friendly rivalry tried to model her game after the Bobcats veteran star, likening her pursuit of Sanchez to a young Kobe Bryant chasing Michael Jordan.
“I’m very thankful that she thought that way and I see her as someone that’s going to be in the high ranks of the top post players in the coming years. And I’m very excited to see her, especially coming from a post aspect, grow throughout the years and see her play,” Sanchez said. “Knowing that people look up to me in that sort of way, it makes me feel relieved because I have a lot of people who helped me grow to be the person that I am.
“To be one of those people that can help other people grows is such a warm feeling and something I hope to be for more people throughout the years, and since I’m staying here I’m definitely going to try and be the best leader I can be on and off the court for young kids in the parks and rec and summer leagues and all that.”
Sanchez also helped lead Edinburg High to shares of back-to-back district titles and a 36-4 record this past season, the program’s best ever mark during Salinas’ tenure, while appearing in all 40 games.
As a senior she was chosen as a District 31-6A All Defensive Team and First Team All-District selection while also earning a spot on The Monitor’s All-Area Second Team. Sanchez was also honored by the Rio Grande Valley Basketball Coaches Association with Class 6A All-Valley Defensive Team and All-Valley First Team nods.
“That style of play for Brianna happened by being a part of our program for four years and understanding how we play. A lot of those things we never taught, she just did them on her own,” Salinas said. “Her leadership, her consistency and her ability to protect the paint with bigs too.”
Sanchez will sign her national letter of intent to play basketball for the Vaqueros with coaches, teammates, friends and family on hand at 3 p.m. Friday at the Edinburg Parks and Recreation Center.