Joey Sankey overcomes difficulties of collegiate recruiting, becomes all-time points leader at North Carolina

first_imgJoey Sankey spent thousands of hours playing lacrosse in the small backyard of his twin home in Warminster, Pennsylvania.Every day, he’d play with his older brother, Ryan Sankey, for about 40 minutes until Ryan got bored, then he’d spend another hour or two practicing by himself.Sankey played so much that the grass was constantly torn up in his backyard. He ripped shot after shot on goal to the point that the neighboring house was covered in dents and his neighbor started stealing his lacrosse balls.“I would just be out there with my dog,” Sankey said. “I would shoot and she would chase it and I would have to get the ball back from her. It was a fun time.”Sankey, though, never expected the success he’d eventually receive. His dream didn’t extend past Salisbury, a small Division III school in Maryland. Instead, North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi took a chance on a player that most Division I coaches weren’t interested in because of his small stature.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSankey’s used his stick skills and gritty play to become the all-time career points leader at UNC. He’s been motivated and pushed by his father to help overcome his 5-foot-5 stature.And when he and the No. 2 Tar Heels (12-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) take the field against No. 4 Syracuse (9-2, 2-2) on Friday at 8 p.m. at PPL Park in the first round of the ACC tournament, Sankey will only be adding to his surprising career.“I was one of the few teams that looked at him and felt like he could make an impact,” Breschi said. “… He’s been tremendous for us for the past four years.”Sankey started playing lacrosse in first grade. But as with every other sport, he played with Ryan on a team two years above his age group, coached by his dad.His dad was tough on him, and so were his brothers. After any bad game, Sankey’s dad reminded him of his performance during the car ride home and at the dinner table. He and his brothers, one two years older and the other eight years older, would sometimes get into fights.“Both of them could still kick my ass, but I definitely had to try and get as tough as I could from them,” Sankey said.Sankey idolized former Syracuse star Mikey Powell, trying to imitate his moves from highlight reels posted to YouTube.Eventually Sankey’s neighbors complained to his parents about the dents in their home and Sankey’s dad bought a batting cage for Sankey to shoot in. As he got older, Sankey needed to shoot farther away from the net, so he cut one side off the batting cage and was able to shoot from anywhere in his yard.“There was a lot of pressure to not be known as the coach’s son who’s just on the team because he’s the coach’s son,” Sankey said. “I was always really conscious of that and never wanted people to think that I got anything just because of my dad.”People questioned Sankey’s size and fragility, but when he played well against a team with D-I committed lacrosse players at a club tournament during his freshman season, he realized D-III wasn’t his ceiling.The public high school by Sankey’s house didn’t have a lacrosse team, so he attended William Penn Charter (Pennsylvania), a private school with a highly rated lacrosse team.When Sankey arrived at UNC, he looked at the players in front of him, including now-Syracuse senior Nicky Galasso, and wasn’t convinced he could find playing time.“I definitely questioned myself,” Sankey said. “… I was a little doubtful of whether I could do it or not.”In scout team practice, Sankey impressed, grabbing passes and scoring behind the back in midair, before earning a spot on the field.“Even guys like Jack McBride who was already a two-time All-American would stop and watch,” UNC attack Jimmy Bitter said.Now three years later, Sankey’s second on the team with 60 points and has 217 in his career. Everything he’s been able to accomplish goes back to his early years of playing lacrosse and the hours he dedicated in his backyard.Said Sankey: “I think that definitely made me the player I am today.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 22, 2015 at 10:04 pm Contact Jon: jrmettus@syr.edu | @jmettuslast_img read more