Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Anderson ignites Spartan offense

March 27, 2003
Junior guard Rashi Johnson gives a hug to sophomore forward/guard Alan Anderson during the second half of the MSU vs. Florida game Sunday in Tampa, Fla. Anderson, not a true point guard, has been effectively running the Spartans' offense. —

A month ago, the Spartans were 14-11 and the NCAA Tournament was seemingly wishful thinking.

Since, the Spartans (21-12) have won seven out of eight games propelling them into the Sweet 16. Much of the Spartans' streak can be credited to Alan Anderson.

The sophomore forward/guard has flourished during the Spartans' recent hot-streak at the point guard position, despite being a natural small forward.

Sophomore guard Chris Hill started the season handling the point guard duties, but he had trouble running the offense and being the primary scoring threat.

Anderson, however, has more foot speed and good ball-handling skills for an athlete his size. Despite his versatility, he had no idea he was Plan B at the point guard position.

"Never once thought I'd come in and play the point guard role," he said. "But I feel really comfortable doing it now.

"I still say (I began feeling comfortable) around that 'Cuse game. I really felt like I was getting a better understanding of the position."

The Spartans suffered a 76-75 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 23, but Anderson's numbers have improved since.

Before the game, Anderson was averaging 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game, including his six-assist and five-rebound performance against the Orangemen.

In the last nine contests, in which MSU has amassed a 7-2 record, Anderson has averaged 11.1 points, 4.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds.

Why the drastic turnaround?

"I'm not making home run plays, I'm making singles," Anderson said. "I'm just trying to keep it sweet and simple. I just try and read the defender pretty much.

"I'm always trying to make other players better and myself better. If I get to the basket, most of the time, I'm thinking pass before shot - probably 60 percent pass and 40 percent shot. Unless there is a clear lane for me to lay it up and I'm in the lane, I'm always looking for someone else."

MSU head coach Tom Izzo said the 6-foot-6 Minneapolis native impresses him more each day, adding he even draws slight comparisons to Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

"Earvin called me (Monday), and he gave a good piece of advice," Izzo said. "He said Anderson's got to get some defensive rebounds and go with it because that's what he did and that's the advantage of having a bigger point guard."

But the minor flaw hasn't distracted people from noticing his keen eye in the last two games. In the wins over No. 10 seed Colorado and No. 2 seed Florida, Anderson has been key in MSU's up-tempo flow.

"He made a great pass later in (the Florida) game to Lorbek and Erazem got a layup and Brian Gregory came up to me and said 'Where did that come from,' and I said, 'Venus, Mars, I don't know,' but I'm not complaining."

After nearly every rebound, the ball was quickly advanced to Anderson who then pushed the ball upcourt and dished it off to a teammate of choice.His 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in the two tourney games combined were major reason's for MSU's 15- and 22-point victories.

"When I'm into it, I don't know what I'm capable of doing," Anderson said. "As you see, once I got into it, everyone else got into it."

Sophomore guard Kelvin Torbert said Anderson's lead was easy for him and his teammates to follow.

"It's like they say for anybody," Torbert said. "When the head is playing well, the body is going to follow. And you know if your point guard is playing well, everyone else is going to contribute.

"We're looking for a championship, and if Alan is leading, we're going to follow."


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