Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State's Alicia Sanchez adapts to a change in plans

It was nothing more than the ordinary pre-examination required by hospitals before surgery.

Alicia Sanchez remembers the minutes dragging on, waiting for the doctor to return with her blood work, anxious to return to preparing for the 2009-10 Wichita State women's basketball season.

The transfer junior was ready for the challenge of Division I hoops, having just won the NJCAA championship at Central Arizona College. It was two months before the season started.

But the doctor returned with results that would keep Sanchez out that season.

The surgery could not be performed, they told Sanchez, because the necessary anesthesia could not be administered — the 20-year-old Sanchez was 5 1/2-months pregnant.

* * *

Fear was the first reaction.

"I was so scared," Sanchez remembered. "I was scared of what my parents were going to think... what the coaches were going to think and how other people were going to perceive me. I've always been a role model. I didn't want to be a disappointment to anybody."

But she had to face her fear right away. Wichita State coach Jody Adams had accompanied her to the hospital for the surgery.

"I was the first person to know," Adams says of the unplanned pregnancy. "The first thing I wanted to do was to make sure I was there for Sancho, no matter what. She's one of my players. I love her."

It took longer to build up the courage to tell her parents. A week passed before Sanchez called home to Phoenix to reveal the news.

"I don't know why I thought this, but I thought they were going to disown me and leave me out on the street," Sanchez says.

Her mother, Kathy, recalls: "Of course, the parent worry kicks in first. The shock, the worry, the 'What are we going to do?' You're never prepared for that kind of news."

Kathy and her husband, Kevin, put aside their shock to immediately formulate a plan, along with the help of Adams and the WSU coaching staff.

Sanchez was allowed to finish the Fall 2009 semester early and return to Arizona to give birth. On Dec. 29, 2009, Isaiah Darrin Sanchez was born.

Soon the question arose of how Sanchez was going to become a full-time student, basketball player and mother.

"We had to discuss it a long time as a family," Kathy says. "We all had to make sacrifices, that's just what we had to do. But isn't that what a family has to do?"

It was decided. Kathy Sanchez was moving to Wichita.

* * *

Kathy Sanchez never went to college, so she labels it "interesting" when she moved in with Alicia last summer in her college-oriented apartment complex.

"It's been kind of fun since I never got that college experience," she says.

It's not surprising. Kathy has the charisma and wit to still appeal to a younger generation. That has allowed she and her daughter to coexist.

Kathy is the full-time babysitter, which has allowed Alicia to go to class and attend to all basketball team matters. But Alicia is careful not to take advantage of the luxury.

"I wake up every morning when Isaiah wakes up," she says. "I do everything with him until I have to leave for the day. When I come home, I play with him and get him ready for bed. I make sure to take care of him whenever I'm home.

"But I'm thankful for my mom being there. I'm really blessed."

Adams, her coaching staff, and Wichita State made the transition even easier for Sanchez, nudging her in the right direction to stay on track.

"Back when we were looking at schools to transfer to, Alicia was struggling to pick one," Kathy says. "Now that all of this has happened, it has just confirmed why we came here. Wichita State has been amazing."

The other players immediately adopted Isaiah as their own.

"I consider him my little brother," says freshman Krystle Henderson, who had Sanchez assigned to be her upperclassmen mentor before this season. "When I first got here, I called Sancho my mom, so I think that makes Isaiah my little brother."

Adams has also formed a special bond with Isaiah — they share the same birthday.

"When you bring a kid into the world, it's so precious and it's so fragile," Adams says. "Babies, they do, they bring that soft side out of you.

"Now when it's my birthday, I stop counting where I'm at and think of how old Isaiah is."

Teams often say how their relationships are like family. It takes on a more literal meaning for the Shockers.

"I mean, we were already a family as a team before," sophomore Chynna Turner says, "but to have Sancho have a child, it really is a family now. It feels like a home here."

* * *

The father is not in Isaiah's life now. Sanchez doesn't expect that to change.

It doesn't bother her much. Things have been going pretty well so far.

The redshirt junior has been a consistent contributor in Adams' rotation as the Shockers make a late-season push. She is on track to graduate in May 2012 with a degree in Sociology, and her mother and Isaiah attend every home game.

It's a rewarding feeling, she says, to see how the situation has worked out.

"He is such a beautiful baby and he's so funny," Sanchez says. "It's been so rewarding to see him grow every day and when I'm playing, to look up and see him in the stands doing all of the silly things that he does."

It leaves her peers wondering in amazement, as Sanchez finds the right balance to be successful in all three aspects of her life.

"I don't know how she does it all," Henderson says. "This whole team looks up to her because of it, though."

The fear of becoming a disappointment has faded in Sanchez.

"I've definitely taken some obstacles to get where I'm at today," she says, "but it's all worked out for the best. Everything happens for a reason. I've had a lot more responsibility come onto me, but I think I was ready for it."

And Sanchez discovered she is still every bit the role model she always strived to be.

"She's managing it all pretty well," Kathy Sanchez says. "I don't think I could do it. She's a good mom... a really good mom."