By Christian Caple The News Tribune
STANFORD, Calif. — Washington’s basketball practices are sometimes stopped by coach Lorenzo Romar, who, on certain occasions, will look at junior guard Mike Anderson and ask him a question.
“Why didn’t you shoot the ball? Why didn’t you take advantage of that opportunity?”
To which Anderson, a 6-foot-4 junior-college transfer playing the four-spot this season, will invariably reply: “Yes, coach. I got you.”
The offensive end is the only part of Anderson’s game that lacks aggressiveness. He is otherwise UW’s most tenacious player, crashing the boards and crashing into opponents often taller and heavier than him, efforts that help compensate for the fact that UW’s starting lineup includes only one player taller than 6-5.
Anderson, a native of Hartford, Conn., will remind you, bluntly, that defending bigger players is no big deal.
“I played against jail-ball players before, so it doesn’t really matter,” Anderson said after UW’s practice Friday at Maples, site of tonight’s Pac-12 game against Stanford (11-5, 2-2 Pac-12). “Jail-ball players. Dudes that have been to jail. Concrete. All that. Playground. It doesn’t matter to me.”
What does matter, though, at least to Romar, is that Anderson doesn’t quite attack the rim the same way he attacks opposing ball-handlers. He’s an adept 3-point shooter and more than adequate off the dribble. But he’d prefer to set up his teammates. After averaging double-figures through part of the non-conference season, his scoring average has dipped to 6.8 points per game (that’s in addition to his average of 6.7 rebounds).
Anderson finished with a double-digit scoring output in six of UW’s first 11 games, highlighted by a 19-point, 16-rebound performance in an overtime victory over Long Beach State.
But in five Pac-12 games, he’s scored a total of 14 points, with a single-game high of five.
“I’ve just got to be more aggressive,” he said. “I’m an aggressive player, but I just like to pass the ball. That’s just me.”
Romar frequently praises Anderson as an essential component to UW’s victories. Even in an 82-56 defeat at California on Wednesday, Anderson led the team with eight rebounds. But if he can score at the same rate he did during non-conference play, the Huskies (11-7, 3-2) will be that much better.
The mismatches work both ways: Anderson might have to guard bigger players, but that often means those big dudes have to guard him, too. Romar wants him to use his quickness to take advantage.
“Mike is unselfish to a fault at times, and we have to continue to tell him to be more aggressive, and he’s starting to do that now,” Romar said. “That makes us a better team.”
Nigel Williams-Goss, UW’s freshman point guard, said “sometimes it’s a disadvantage to us defensively because teams are a little bit bigger than us. But offensively, you want to be able to take advantage of our smaller guys, where a big is guarding him. Mike has really good skills with his ball-handling skills and his finishing at the basket, so we just kind of urge him to be as aggressive as possible.”
And that’s likely the only thing they’d like him to change about his game.
“I just feel like once I’m playing and talking and giving everybody energy, they feed off my energy,” Anderson said. When that happens, “I just feel like we’ll get that win.”