For The Love Of The Game
SLAM catches up with one tough ball player.
by Sammy Newman-Beck
In recent years Massachusetts has become known for its pro teams, but not for sending guys to the NBA or even to big-name universities. While every now and then some talented players break the mold (Patrick Ewing, Rumeal Robinson, Dana Barros, Chris Herren and Will Blalock to name a few) most of the best hoopers in the state and more so, in the Boston area, earn their stripes during the summer.
Over the last few summers one baller in particular garnered the “hardest to guard” title in Massachusetts. Former UMass Amherst Point God and Lynn native (25 miles north of Boston) Anthony Anderson (older brother to Memphis’ grad Antonio Anderson) has taken over the state of Massachusetts. Whether it’s his besting of Boston’s own and former Detroit Piston Will Blalock in a recent summer tourney, or being one of the few players making it overseas, AA (as he is called on the streets) has become known as a warrior. After just getting back from leading the league in assists in Cyprus, AA sat down with SLAM and discussed his first season across the waters, his relationship with his brother (who is hoping to hear his name called in a couple weeks), and why, in his late-twenties, he is still proving himself.
SLAM: How did your first full year playing overseas go?
Anthony Anderson: It was pretty good. It was a little more physical and different then where I had been playing (ABA, NBPL). It was my first full season overseas so I really got to see how ball is over there.
SLAM: What league did you play in?
AA: It was the Cypress Basketball League, the team was AEK.
SLAM: How did the competition compare?
AA: It was very good competition. It’s just like when you see European guys in the NBA. There are a lot of skilled and crafty players, not overly athletic but very skilled. There were also a lot of American guys over there. Martin Zeno from Texas Tech, Darryl Mitchell from LSU, Brad Buckman from Texas—it was great competition over there.
SLAM: How did your team finish?
AA: We did OK. We had trouble with bringing in our Americans. By mistake we used too many Americans, so for the last month I was the only American on the team. We finished sixth in the league and lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs. It was a great experience though, and I’m looking forward to coming back and playing at a higher level.
SLAM: How was it being an American in a foreign country?
AA: There was a lot of staring at first but then they get used to it. They knew I played basketball. The set us up really nice, though. We lived a block from the beach and there was a KFC, McDonald’s and a Friday’s, and I’m a real picky eater so it was good.
SLAM: How was it being away from your wife and kids?
AA: It was tough. My son is 7 so I didn’t want to bring him over here and have him go from country to country or anything. We didn’t get any breaks either. We didn’t get a Christmas or Thanksgiving break. It was tough watching them open their gifts over the Skype.
SLAM: Any horror stories?
AA: I’ve heard the stories and I was worried. At one point we had lost two games in a row and the president of the club was talking about taking 20 percent out of everybody’s check. They definitely try to get over on you, especially if you’re American. The Europeans have a union over there so if things go wrong they’re taken care of, but not us. But fortunately nothing happened to me.
SLAM: What were your numbers like over there?
AA: I was second in the league in scoring and first in assists.
SLAM: What was the best competition like?
AA: Well I pretty much went up against an American every night. Darryl Mitchell from LSU was very tough and was very tough to defend.
SLAM: Before you went to Cypress you had some NBA tryouts, right?
AA: Yes, before I went I had a three-day Pacers tryout.
SLAM: What has been the most criticized aspect of your game? Why aren’t you in the NBA?
AA: Well my agent said that the coaches said I was undersized. At my size you have to be exceptionally gifted, which I feel I am, but sometimes even when you have a workout the teams aren’t necessarily looking for guys anyways. I wasn’t really getting looked at. I take it for what it is. I also had some family problems right after I left college so it was hard to just get overseas for me.
SLAM: How old are you?
SLAM: So the family stuff is why it took a little longer?
AA: My oldest son’s mother had passed away. I put basketball on the back burner and got a job and did everything I had to do to get full custody of my son after that. I took about a year and a half off.
SLAM: So this year your brother was a senior at Memphis, were you able to watch the games?
AA: Yeah, I have a box on my laptop where I’m able to watch my cable from back home. I had to stay up to 3 or 4 in the morning but I was able to watch him so it was cool.
SLAM: How was it growing up with your younger brother?
AA: It’s been big for where were from. It’s big to Lynn and it’s big to Massachusetts. When you see Antonio or you see Will Blalock it’s really big for the state. And it’s been fun to see Antonio kind of follow in my footsteps but at the same time go his own way. He’s been working out for a couple teams and he’s gotten really good feedback.
SLAM: Now are you trying to get on an NBA summer league team?
AA: I’m looking into it. But my agent isn’t going to send me there if there’s not serious interest.
SLAM: So who is going to win a 1-on-1 game between you and your brother?
AA: [Laughs] I’m definitely gonna go with me and he’ll probably go with him. He hasn’t always been 6-7. He used to be a PG because he was short and now he’s 6-7.
SLAM: Whose been your toughest opponent?
AA: I can’t really call it. There are a lot of good defenders. If I have a low scoring night I just miss, it’s not the defense [laughs].
SLAM: How do you view summertime ball?
AA: At the end of the day it’s fun. But I get excited too because people are out, the sun is out and the best players usually come out. It’s all bragging rights. People talk about it all winter.
SLAM: You’re known to play any and everywhere, whether it’s outside in the parks or in the gym. A lot of professional players won’t do that. Why do you?
AA: I understand why players don’t play outside due to injuries, age, etc. At the end of the day this is where I’m from. I’m always gonna be available to play whether it’s pickup, leagues, etc. As long as the competition is decent I’ll do it. Some guys feel like playing, some don’t, but I love ball too much not to play and I’m always up for a challenge. I was always the younger guy playing with the older guys, I love a challenge.
SLAM: So what’s next?
AA: Well I took a month off when I got back home. I’m working out now, staying in shape and waiting to hear from my agent. I’m trying to go to either Greece, Spain or Italy.