When Porter-Gaud boys basketball coach John Pearson says James Sanderson has talent to spare, he's not kidding.

You can check out Sanderson's basketball talent on the hardcourt. At one time in his life, Sanderson was like the 98-pound weakling who evolved into the big man on campus. He was 6-0 as a sophomore, but grew to 6-8 in time for his senior season.

You might get to check out Sanderson's acting ability on the stage. The school is presenting the musical "Beauty and the Beast," and he is expected to join the cast.

"I've been cast for the school musical," Sanderson said. "They want me to play the prince before he was transformed into the beast. I might do it because I don't think it will interfere with basketball."

He's talented academically and athletically and will matriculate to Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Sanderson, whose parents moved from England 20 years ago, is proof that hard work pays off.

His father, Iian, and mother, Angela, moved to the Unites States when Duke University recruited the new doctor to Durham, N.C., in what was supposed to be a one-year stay. But the family fell in love with America and moved to the Charleston area when Sanderson was in the eighth grade. Pearson remembers Sanderson as gangly with some basketball ability.

"To sit here and say that I thought he would play college basketball when I met him in the eighth grade wouldn't be accurate," said Pearson, whose team hosts Pinewood Prep tonight in a big SCISA showdown. "But he worked hard and was humble. He joined Trademark Properties not as an official member of the team, but as a practice player only. The plan was for him to practice and get better. I help coach the team and I stayed neutral. But the other coaches felt he should be on the team. He played in every game and was a factor in every game."

Trademark Properties is better known as Team TMP, an AAU basketball team sponsored by local real estate investor Richard Davis. It includes some of the best players in the Lowcountry who play on the national stage.

Sanderson benefitted from the exposure and support from Pearson and another Team TMP coach, Antoine Saunders.

"Team TMP was an amazing experience," Sanderson said. "Amherst saw me playing AAU ball and that helped immensely. "Coach JP (John Pearson) helped me with the mental toughness part of basketball, and I owe a lot to coach Saunders, too."

Pearson said Sanderson's basketball journey has been impressive. He literally was the 13th man when he first made the varsity team and worked his way up to sixth man. Now, he's one of the Cyclones' top players.

Sanderson and his family head to England once a year to visit with his grandparents and cousins. He admits playing basketball in Europe is an intriguing idea, but education comes first.

He has a 4.3 GPA and should fit in well at Amherst, one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation. In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked Amherst as the third best college or university in the United States, ahead of MIT, Stanford, Caltech and every Ivy League school except Princeton.

The school has a strong basketball program as well. Three players who graduated in 2009 play in Europe and five players who graduated in 2008 play abroad.

"I've thought about playing in Europe," Sanderson said. "Amherst has a lot of players overseas. To play basketball in England, that would be quite an experience."

Follow Phil Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil