Phillip Sanchez of Arroyo High in El Monte wouldn't try for the lead in a school play or audition to solo at the spring sing.
It's just not his style. Sanchez is too shy to even think about such things.
But Sanchez has landed the starring role on this year's Arroyo basketball team, a team that burned up the Mission Valley League last season.
Sanchez, who averaged 18 points a game as a junior, has had to pick up even more of the scoring after the graduation of All-CIF center Mike Smith and all-league forward David Rodarte. The trio formed the core of a Knight team that captured the Mission Valley championship with a perfect 10-0 record and finished 19-6 for the year.
Fourth Leading Scorer
This season, the 5-9 Sanchez is the fourth leading scorer in the CIF's Southern Section, averaging 32 points a game. He has scored 40 or more points four times, including a season-high 53 against San Gabriel. His team is 10-10 overall.
"He was that good last year," said Coach Joel Kyne. "But last year his role was a lot different.
"We were a bigger team and we had two kids who could score inside. Phillip was our point guard so he brought the ball up and set up our offense."
Sanchez, a first-team Mission Valley League selection last season, spent the summer in the gym working several hours a day to improve his shooting, practicing and playing in pick-up games.
"He went out every single day and shot the ball at least 250 times," Kyne said.
Sanchez believes that the extra work has paid off. "I'd play against big guys and I learned to put more arc on the ball and dribble faster," he said.
With the benefit of all that practice, the bashful Sanchez is having the most trouble this season getting used to all the publicity. "When you talk with him, you'll find that he's a real shy kid," Kyne said.
"I still haven't adjusted yet," Sanchez said. "It affects my game. I never play that well after I have a big game. I read my name in the papers and it kind of goes to my head a little bit. I don't try as hard."
Kyne said Sanchez has accepted his role as a shooter. In reward, Kyne has virtually given him carte blanche to shoot from anywhere. "His range is from 22 feet in and I've told him, 'If you're open and in control, shoot the ball.' " Kyne said Sanchez has done his job when he shoots 20 to 30 times a game.
However, Sanchez is one of those players who can score 30 points and go unnoticed.
Although his scoring may go unnoticed by the fans, Sanchez's ability to hit from the outside and drive quickly grabs the attention of opposing coaches. Many coaches use the "box-and-one defense," a four-man zone with one player following Sanchez man-to-man to slow him down.
"What other teams do is bring in a fresh guy every three minutes, just to wear me down," Sanchez said. He says he's used to it.
Quick and Good Jumper
Although Sanchez is small, Kyne said he is lightning quick and jumps well for a player his size.
"He's really super quick," he said. "He's made up for his lack of height by really working on his legs. He can really jump for being 5-9." Sanchez is Arroyo's leading rebounder, averaging seven a game.
Kyne thinks Sanchez's biggest asset is his intelligence. "Right now he's more concerned about getting a very good education," he said.
Sanchez, who will major in business when he enters college, has his sights set on starting a company.
"I want to be really successful," he said. "My parents didn't go to high school. . . . They were raised in Mexico."
Sanchez said basketball is just for fun right now and not the principal reason he will attend college.
Three of his brothers and sisters have graduated or are currently attending college, and Sanchez said he'll receive poor reviews from his family if he doesn't get a degree.