Friday, May 24, 2024

Team needs Anagonye on offense

November 1, 2001
Junior forward Al Anagonye grabs a rebound in front of Wisconsin forward Charlie Wills in last season’s game against Wisconsin at the Breslin Center

Aloysius Anagonye is tough - every coach in the Big Ten will say that.

The junior forward has given himself a reputation as a no-nonsense, ferocious defender and rebounder.

“Anagonye is one of the toughest rebounders in the country,” Purdue head coach Gene Keady said. “He can out-muscle almost anybody in the conference.”

But since last season, Anagonye has strained to add another dimension to his game.

“I’ve been working very hard on becoming an offensive threat,” he said. “And I am already starting to see some of the hard work pay off.”

The thought of getting a balanced attack on both ends on the court from Anagonye is rather frightening.

“MSU has a lot of guys up front who can step out and hit jumpers, guys like (sophomore forward Adam) Wolfe and (junior forward Adam) Ballinger,” Iowa guard Ryan Hogan said. “But the real key for them is Anagonye in the paint.”

With a large 6-foot-8, 255-pound frame, Anagonye has a chance to physically dominate the paint, Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said.

“Al is such a strong player,” he said, “And we’re hoping he can use his strength to put some points on the board for us.”

Anagonye’s role in his first two seasons with the Spartans didn’t entailed much scoring.

In 67 career games for MSU, Anagonye is averaging 3.8 points per game. He averaged 4.7 for the Spartans last season as a sophomore.

Losing the inside scoring punch from ex-Spartan forward Andre Hutson to graduation could create a gap in the Spartans offensive schemes. But Anagonye wants to fill that space.

“I’ve always had confidence in my skills,” Anagonye said. “But know I have to step for this team. And all the work I’ve put in these past months has made me much more confident offensively.”

ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz said the Spartans and Izzo have done a great job developing their four-year players like former Spartan Antonio Smith and Hutson.

And if they’ve been taking Anagonye on the same route, he should be ready to explode.

“Michigan State has done a good job developing four-year players to the point that by their junior and senior year they become pretty productive,” Katz said. “If the trend continues, he’ll fall right in line.”

Anagonye said he has worked on perfecting his perimeter 18-foot jumper and his jump hook.

“If he can take teams outside and inside he’ll be dangerous,” Iowa’s Hogan said. “He’s already so strong and tough that you almost expect to limit him to the paint, but if he can take a step back now, watch out.”

Scoring is not a completely foreign thing for Anagonye, who averaged 16 points per game during his senior campaign for Detroit DePorres High School.

“He’s got good offensive skills,” Keady said. “And with everything they lost, he’s got a new opportunity to show them.”

Anagonye has never been a bad shooter for the Spartans - his career field goal percentage is just less than 60 percent at .596.

He just has never had to take many attempts - the most he’s tried to hit in one game as a Spartan is eight.

For the Spartans to be successful, Anagonye must establishes himself on the inside, Katz said.

“It’s critical for them because they will be so guard oriented,” he said. “So they desperately need Anagonye to be a low-post scoring presence - to be more like (former Spartan) Zach Randolph and be the guy they can throw the ball into down low and just score.”

Anagonye said he’s ready to step into the gap.

“This season it’s a totally new mentality for me, like it is every year,” he said. “You always are losing guys and people need to step into the open roles.

“I’m going to have to step up and score.”

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