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Prep Basketball: Anderson sharpened more than court skills
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
When Justin Anderson is off the basketball court he’s more mannered, articulate and polished than many would expect a high school senior to be.
But the Westmoreland County native and former Courtland junior varsity standout has a much different style on the hardwood.
For four years at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., Anderson was a bundle of energy.
The University of Virginia recruit dashed up and down the court, dunking, blocking shots and making steals for the Mustangs.
He did so with an edgy persona that could be construed as cocky.
As Anderson prepares for the Capital Classic all-star game tonight at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, he said the facial expressions and exuberance he shows on the court are all part of the package he brings to a team.
“I’m always a very respectful young man because I was raised to be a respectful young man,” Anderson said. “But when I get in that competitive zone on the court, I want to play as hard as I can. It’s a feeling not too many people get. I’m locked in. It’s just my passion.”
Anderson, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward, will play for the Capital All-Stars tonight.
Two of his future Virginia teammates—swingman Evan Nolte and 6-foot-10 center Mike Tobey—will play for the U.S. All-Stars.
Nolte said he and Anderson were roommates at a basketball camp last summer.
He said they’ve already bonded, and he wouldn’t hesitate to tell Anderson if he needs to tone down his antics on the court.
“I think everyone goes overboard sometimes,” Nolte said. “But I think maybe sometimes he gets a little too hyped up and needs to calm down a bit. I think it’s kind of funny, but at the next level, some of it isn’t necessary.”
Anderson said his on-court demeanor is “built in” and likely won’t change with the Cavaliers.
He said his athletic and academic background at Montrose Christian has prepared him for Virginia.
He’s eagerly anticipating high school graduation on May 26.
He’ll then enroll in summer school classes at Virginia in early June.
That’s when the process of figuring out how he’ll fit in with next season’s Cavaliers will begin.
Virginia was down to seven scholarship players at the end of last season when it reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, but lost to Florida in the first round.
Leading scorer and rebounder Mike Scott has departed, as has guard Sammy Zeglinski and center Assane Sene.
But while it seems ample playing time could await the freshman class, Anderson said that’s not on his mind right now.
He said he wants to learn coach Tony Bennett’s “Pack-line” defense and establish himself as a top-notch defender.
“I feel like if I go in there and work hard, I’ll get positive results,” said Anderson, who averaged 17.8 points per game for the Mustangs in 2011–12. “I’ll become better and my team will get better.
Playing time will take care of itself.”
Montrose Christian veteran coach Stu Vetter said Anderson could emerge as one of the more talented players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Vetter said Anderson’s one of the best athletes he’s ever coached, but his basketball skills have caught up with his athleticism over the past four years.
“He’s no longer just an athlete,” Vetter said. “He’s developed a shot. He’s learned to defend, and he’s developed his body to where I think he’s going to be an outstanding player in the ACC.”
Maryland fans initially thought Anderson would showcase his skills for the Terrapins.
He orally committed to Maryland in March 2011, but reopened his recruitment after Terrapins longtime coach Gary Williams retired less than two months later.
Vetter said Anderson’s family had grown weary of the recruiting process and wanted to get it over with.
So instead of getting acquainted with new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, Anderson chose his second option, the Cavaliers.
Virginia’s supporters have been looking forward to his arrival ever since.
Anderson said he understands there’s been a “buzz” about his potential, and he wants to deliver.
The former Duke fan said his goal is to make Virginia the most beloved team in the commonwealth because “there are too many Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech fans here.”
“I think God has a plan for me, and ending up at U.Va. is one of the best things to ever happen to me,” Anderson said. “I just want to help put the state college up where it needs to be. I do this for the state.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526