Triple Threat: KJ Saunders’ Athletics Trifecta

Marc Goldstein, Editor in Chief

Athletics are so synonymous with life. In most cases, it takes a team of individuals united under one goal to truly accomplish anything substantial. The idea of family is recurring in the same manner. Teams act like microcosms of families and allow for athletes to flourish when it is done properly. For Kenneth “KJ” Saunders, he has found that, and more in his first year as a Seahawk. KJ is a three sport athlete, playing for the South Lakes football, basketball and baseball teams. His journey to this juncture has been long and arduous, but one he wouldn’t trade for the world. 

KJ is a self described “island kid”. He grew up in the Bahamas before moving to Hialeah, Florida, a city that is neighboring Miami. He moved from the Bahamas to Hialeah, an action that forced him to reclassify his high school eligibility to the Class of 2023. KJ came to Virginia in a random way, though. He chose to attend a Virginia Tech football camp and stayed in the state for a while. After playing some AAU basketball with South Lakes basketball assistant coach Herb Lansdowne, he decided he wanted to make the Northern Virginia area his home. The only problem was that he would have to reclassify again, making him technically a sophomore even though he turns 18 this spring. 

Regardless of how long and difficult the entire journey to South Lakes has been for KJ, he thinks it has paid massive dividends. “I felt the embrace of this community so quickly. All of the parents care for you even if (you) are not  their kid. If you don’t have enough money on a road trip or something like that, they will help you out,” he explains. He has flourished in the new environment, even if there was a small culture shock compared to the warm, tropical weather near the Equator. “I just remember my first time playing in the cold weather. It is so different from anything else from where I’m from,” KJ jokes. 

The biggest thing that draws people to KJ, both on and off the field or court, is his passion and charismatic attitude. “I just want to approach everyday with a positive attitude. I have seen people go through life unhappily, and that is something I want to avoid. I feel like I am so lucky, so there is a reason for me to be upset,” he elaborates. At no point during his time at South Lakes has KJ had anything but positive things to say concerning his move to the area. 

One thing, though, that means more than any accolades on the playing field is his family. He credits both his parents for getting him to this point, saying, “I would not be here without my mom and dad. They, along with my extended family, have been so supportive of me and have helped me so much along the way. I just can’t thank them enough.” One of his biggest motivations, among being thrust into immortality, is to ensure that his family will be taken care of financially. He wants to get to the point where he is making enough money that his loved ones will not have to struggle or wonder if they will have enough to make certain payments. 

As much as he loves his actual family, his South Lakes family is a close second. He has felt so welcomed by the entire community and explains that it is so rare. “Some places I have played, there isn’t the same passion by the students and the city. I think that is what makes South Lakes unique because there isn’t another school in Reston, so everyone really gets behind us,” he details. That passion and infatuation comes from a motivation to uplift everyone around him and to be as successful as possible. 

That being said, playing in each of the three seasons during the school year is no easy task, let alone doing so in one’s first year in the area. KJ has, at times, struggled with balancing his school work with having practice and games almost everyday after school. He appreciates all of the staff members at South Lakes for helping him as best they can and having his best interests at heart. “At the beginning of the year, it was really tough to get into the flow of everything, but I think I have done a good job of balancing my school work and having sports,” he adds. 

Over the next few years, KJ will be able to grow in three sports. As a safety and wide receiver on the gridiron to being a guard on the hardwood to being on the diamond, he is bound to find great success. While he says that he thinks his future lies in football, he wants to continue to play each of the three sports in unison for as long as possible. He explains, “I think they help with different skills in other sports. Being able to move horizontally in basketball helps in football.” He relishes in his role as a Swiss army knife across each of his three sports that he participates in during the school year, making his mark in many different manners.