Former Idaho star Victor Sanders stays positive despite lack of playing time at summer league

San Antonio’s Jeff Ledbetter steals the ball from Atlanta’s Jock Landale during the second half of an NBA Summer League game July 3 in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer / AP)

LAS VEGAS – Control what is controllable.

It’s a motto Victor Sanders abides by and from which he never wavers.

For instance, when the NBA Summer League opened last Friday on the UNLV campus, he saw zero playing time with the Denver Nuggets, who told him and several others they’d be using a 10-man rotation during the tournament and they weren’t a part of it.

Even a 21-point lead over Minnesota heading into the fourth quarter didn’t get the former Idaho standout out of his warm-ups.

It was out of Sanders’ control, and he’s fine with that.

“I just control what I can do and how I put my effort into whatever I’m doing,” Sanders said. “I can’t control who likes me, I can’t control who thinks I’m good enough or not good enough. But what I can control is how hard I play and how much I work on my game.”

Which is exactly what he’s been doing, during the five-day minicamp before the league started, and during team practices with players who are in the regular rotation.

Rather than mope, Sanders knows he can be seen by any coach, at any time. So, he said, just making a summer roster is a big opportunity and a blessing.

“And a great experience,” the Portland native said. “Having these opportunities is a testament to my hard work and to everything that I’ve put into this game since I was young.”

Such as when he annually visited Las Vegas with AAU teams while his father spent time in prison after being convicted of assault and kidnapping. By the time LaWan Sanders was released, his son was a junior in high school.

Being fatherless for 10 years was simply another uncontrollable circumstance he overcame, and never used as an excuse. Instead, he honed in on his long-range game, as he graduated from Idaho as one of the school’s most prolific shooters. Sanders scored 1,804 points, drained 272 3-pointers and made 440 free throws – the most by a Vandal – during his four-year college career in Moscow, Idaho.

“I’m just really proud of Victor and the way he has came through so much,” LaWan Sanders said. “Throughout that whole situation, my son missing me for all those years, I was able to write letters (and) stay connected to him, keep that relationship tight-knit and that’s how we was able to build.

“It’s a learning process for him, he’s so much of a positive now. I’m totally opposite of him. I just try to show him, stuff that happened to me, it don’t have to happened to you. God has a better plan for you.”

A plan that after years of visiting Las Vegas with club teams or to watch the summer league as a fan, has him in a uniform and on an NBA roster.

“It’s just a great experience and a blessing overall,” Sanders said. “When you’re in an NBA environment for five days, you get a real taste of what the NBA life is like. It’s something that I want more of. It’s something that I’m willing to work very hard for, work on my game and just be the best player that I can be in any system that I go to and just have a great attitude all around.”

Put simply: controlling what is controllable.

W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez