It’s a statline that speaks for itself: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 21 minutes. Sophomore Juan Anderson had his best game as a Golden Eagle and it’s not even close.
In a season full of false starts and untimely pit stops, Anderson’s box score for the entire 2011-’12 season read: 16 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in 109 minutes. In one night he matched 56 percent of his points, 45 percent of his rebounds and 50 percent of his assists and steals, all in just under 20 percent of the minutes.
“He’s kind of all over the stat sheet,” coach Buzz Williams said of Anderson after the game. “That’s really, really good. I’m very pleased with him.”
Yet, stats can be misleading without context. Just look at Anderson’s direct predecessor, the departed Jamail Jones as the prime case study.
After an underwhelming freshman campaign, Jones lit it up on opening night with 10 points and a monster slam that had us believing he had turned a corner.
From our analysis last year : “Jones intercepted a pass and went in for a huge, one-handed dunk. It was a super-athletic play and continued his excellent first half, where he scored eight of his 10 points … Jones with two nice pull-up jumpers off the dribble. His first two makes were not set shots, but rather dribble pull-ups. This seems small. But dribble pull-ups are much tougher than set shots, and he’s going to have to create his own shot at times in the Big East.”
“I’m really impressed by (Jones’) performance,” Chris Otule said after the game last season. “He’s come a long ways since last year.”
Although the praise was warranted for that specific game, Jones never made the leap into a full fledged contributor and continued to play spot minutes until he was forced into action as a five when Davante Gardner and Otule both went down. It was too early to make overarching generalizations after one game, as the weak opponent and small sample size skewed the analysis.
With all that being said, Anderson’s season opener wasn’t one small step for Juan, it was one giant leap for the potential success of this team as a whole.
Read for yourself Buzz’ extended quote when asked about Anderson’s ability to impress given an extended run.
“Any player needs consistency regardless of sport, regardless of level. But your consistency has to be derived from energy within how we play. We’re not trying to be smarter than anybody, we’re not trying to trick anybody. What we’re trying to do is overwhelm you with how hard we play. Overwhelm you within our energy. What we do schematically is, for the most part, simple in nature. But playing with unbelievable pace, unbelievable energy, if Juan can do that, like I’ve said all along, you will know, everybody that’s asking me questions will know as time goes along. He’ll have a pretty good feel for how many minutes guys are going to play because how we play is how we’ve played however many games since we’ve been here.”
One game in, anyone that saw the game was able to see a completely different player from the scrawny freshman whose hustle was the only positive aspect to his game. Last year he had the energy, Sunday afternoon he showed flashes of the purpose.
Anderson entered the game for the first time at the 12:07 mark with MU up 18-10. He proceeded to score his first bucket 41 seconds later, finding an open space in the defense and giving Gardner an easy target to pass to as Anderson finished the easy bunny. (You can see it for yourself below but be warned, the video quality is beyond awful. It’s just meant to illustrate the recognition Anderson had when his defender sagged off him, a play that has less to do with talent and more with comfort on the court.)
Anderson impressed Buzz enough to stay on the court through two TV timeouts, forcing two steals and converting two more lay-ups, both in the open court due to smart runs and a decent feel around the glass. When Anderson finally came out for a breather at the 6:02 mark, the lead had stretched to 32-18. Defensively, he was still caught out of position at times, but did a good job on switches keeping the smaller ball handlers in front of him.
The Oakland native was back on the floor with 2:01 remaining in the half and played an integral role in helping maintain a comfortable lead. Up only 36-31 with 1:15 remaining, Vander Blue missed on a 16-foot jumper but Anderson came up with a clutch offensive rebound, snatching the ball away from two Colgate players to keep the possession alive. Blue would end up going to the line for two shots and Marquette would push the lead to 11 by the half, but Anderson’s rebound was a critical factor that may have gone unnoticed.
In the second half, Anderson came in for a three minute spell at the 16:37 mark grabbing an offensive and defensive rebound in a five second span.
The fourth and final entrance came at the 10:02 mark, as Anderson played until the end of the game and made his presence known on the glass. From the 8:22 to the 6:13 mark, Colgate went 0-4 from the field and Anderson grabbed every defensive rebound for Marquette. Feeling extremely confident, Anderson immediately tried a long three from straight away, hitting from long distance for the first time in his career. Anderson would add a couple of boards as well as a block and an assist in garbage time.
One last time, one good game against a mediocre team does not signal he’s ready to be a 20-minute player night in and night out. However, beyond the statistical data, Anderson’s movement on the court and aggressiveness instead of passivity do show he has improved from last season and is ready for a bigger role. How big? We shall find out soon enough.
(One more positive note, Anderson’s surgically repaired shoulder was seen by the trainers in the second half after he experienced some discomfort, but hw came back onto the court minutes later.
“It’s fine,” Anderson said. “That was the first time since I’ve been back that I actually had a scare despite how hard and intense our practices are. It was just a scare, just a little bit of scar tissue, nothing serious.”)