Earlier this month, New Jersey’s St. Anthony High School announced that it will be shutting down for good after the 2016-17 school year due to financial troubles. The school, which has been open since 1952, is well-known for its successful basketball program that has been headed by coach Bob Hurley for the past 45 years. Hurley, who is a legend in the coaching sphere and recognized both for his intensity on the sidelines and dedication to the school, has won 28 New Jersey state championships and helped countless players earn full Division I scholarships.
San Antonio Spurs guard Kyle Anderson graduated from St. Anthony’s in 2012 and is currently the only alum to play for an NBA team. Anderson transferred to St. Anthony’s after his former high school, Paterson Catholic, shut its doors following his sophomore year. While playing under Hurley, Anderson went 65-0 during his two seasons. Slow Mo was considered a top-5 recruit in the Class of 2012 and played two seasons at UCLA before declaring for the NBA Draft. He is currently playing for the San Antonio Spurs.
We caught up with the former Friar to talk about lessons learned at St. Anthony’s, playing under Bob Hurley and what has carried over from his days in high school to the NBA.
SLAM: How did you hear about the school’s closing?
Kyle Anderson: I read something about it on Twitter, then my dad had sent me a text message saying it was true. That’s how I got the news.
SLAM: What was your initial reaction?
KA: It’s tough, this is my second high school closing. Paterson Catholic, the school I went to my freshman and sophomore year, closed and when I heard St. Ant’s closed down, I felt like I had been in this position before. But it still stinks. You want to see something as special as St. Anthony’s continue on forever. But for certain reasons and unfortunate reasons, it can’t happen and it’s sad.
SLAM: Being that you had the experience of a school closing while you were at Paterson, can you empathize with the kids who are at St. Anthony’s now?
KA: Definitely, just kind of thinking about it, you don’t really have anything to go back to now. You don’t have a high school team to go watch, there won’t be anymore St. Anthony’s games. Fortunately you still know the same people but to not have your high school still there, it’s tough.
SLAM: I feel like every year, a rumor would pop up that St. Anthony’s was in danger of closing and then at the last minute the money would come through thanks to a donation or fundraiser. Did you think that was going to happen this year, too?
KA: I think that’s what everyone was thinking. Every year you hear rumors about the school closing and for this year to finally be true, it’s shocking. It’s tough, I was very taken aback by it.
SLAM: The team was so successful in the two years that you were there. What are some of your favorite memories from playing at St. Ant’s?
KA: A lot of great memories on and off the court. The players and the guys I went to school with and shared success with at the time, those were great guys and a very hard working, fun group to be around. I still keep in touch with those guys, they will be my friends forever. We won state championships, we didn’t lose a single game while I was there. I remember all the hard practices and beating St. Pat’s my junior year in the Non-Public B State Championship Game. Too many memories to even count.
SLAM: What was it like playing for Coach Hurley?
KA: He’s a very demanding coach and wants the best out of you and wants to give your all whenever you step into that rectangle. It’s tough, you have to be very strong minded and have to be willing to accept criticism. I think it pays off in the long run.
SLAM: Are there any similarities in his style and the way Pop coaches?
KA: Yeah, I see some similarities. Honestly, both great coaches and both are very demanding and selective in what they want. I think that’s what makes both of them great coaches.
SLAM: Are there any lessons that coach Hurley has taught you, either on the court or off the court, that have carried over to your professional career and adult life?
KA: There were so many. I think one thing I learned from Coach Hurley on the basketball floor is to never take possessions off and play as hard as you can every time you’re on the floor. He really got that out of me and it was something I wanted to get better at when I got to St. Ant’s. I think I learned how to do that once I got to St. Anthony’s.
SLAM: As the only player from St. Ant’s in the NBA right now, do you feel a certain pride that you’re from the school and a responsibility for holding down the school’s legacy?
KA: There’s always that pride when you come from St. Anthony’s. I think everybody has it once they go through. I’m not trying to uphold any legacy or anything, it’s a privilege to say that I went there and played there.
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Peter Walsh is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him @Peter_M_Walsh.