Improvement is all in the family for star Richmond guard Anderson
DENVER -- Practice? We're talking about practice.
And Kevin Anderson will be there on Friday, getting his Richmond Spiders ready for their third-round game against fellow upstart Morehead State.
The scorn for practice is the one part of Allen Iverson's game that Anderson doesn't try to emulate. But as a small guard, Anderson was otherwise inspired by Iverson.
"Out of the blue, my mom went to Toys-R-Us and bought me an Allen Iverson DVD," Anderson said. "I didn't know she knew I liked him. I used to watch that over and over again."
Anderson is a "shoes on" guy. He says he is -- like Iverson - a legitimate 6-foot Anderson.
"Shoes on," he qualified.
He's the kind of small-body, big-heart player who captures the imagination in March. On Thursday, his 25-point effort propelled the No. 12-seeded Spiders to a 69-66 win over No. 5-seeded Vanderbilt in the Southwest Regional. On Saturday, it will be No. 12 vs. No. 13 for a Sweet 16 berth.
Anderson scored his team's last five points -- including a completely off-balance jumper from the top of the key and a floater on the baseline -- to hold off Vanderbilt.
You can thank the coach in the stands for Anderson's offensive development: Coach Shirley Ann Brown, Anderson's mother.
"She gave me that DVD when I was in sixth or seventh grade," Anderson said. "I only passed the ball. She said, 'When you're that small, you won't be recognized. Guys have to respect you off the dribble.'"
Brown said his mother, who raised him as a single mom, spent a lot of time analyzing his game. In high school, friends used to invite him to sleep over after an off-game to save him from Brown's postgame critique. Even today, she'll give him what-for if he doesn't play to his capabilities.
But, thanks in part to Coach Brown, opponents respect Anderson off the dribble now. Thursday was Anderson's 43rd career 20-point or more game. His acrobatic shots stun his teammates.
"It's unbelievable," said teammate Darrius Garrett. "There's no words for it."
Justin Harper added, "You kind of expect it from him 'cause he just does it so much and so often. He just hits big shots for us. He has all the confidence in the world and we have all the confidence giving him the ball."
Anderson entered the NBA draft last spring, but then withdrew his name. He still had unfinished business at Richmond.
Though Richmond has a reputation as an NCAA giant-killer, it's a stale one. Richmond crafted huge upset in the 1980s and '90s: knocking out Charles Barkley's Auburn team in 1984, ousting defending champion Indiana and Georgia Tech to get to the second round, and becoming the first No. 15 seed to eliminate a No. 2 seed in 1991 when Richmond beat Syracuse.
But this Richmond team had something to prove. The Spiders lost to lower-seeded St. Mary's in 2010. The Atlantic 10 champions, winners of 10 of their last 11, the Spiders thought they deserved better than a No. 12 ranking.
"We were hoping for a nine or ten," Anderson said. "We were blown when we got a 12 ... We definitely have a chip on our shoulder."
Anderson is familiar with that feeling on his shoulder. He heard for years that he was too small to play basketball. When he entered high school he was 5-foot-1 and weighed 90 pounds.
"It was tough when you have to take your shirt off in a room," he said. "I didn't let it bother me."
Richmond coach Chris Mooney is thrilled to have Anderson as his little big man.
"He's incredible," Mooney said. "The shots he can make, how smart he is He sees things two and three steps ahead of everyone else. He's a great player who plays his best the game's most important."
It was important on Thursday. The crazy, off-balance floaters that Anderson took down the stretch are his weapon to score against larger defenders.
"I have to shoot some type of shot like that when you're going against a long defense like Vanderbilt," he said. "They have Jeff Taylor on me, he's like 6-7. I can't go for a regular layup or they're probably going to get a block."
Can he practice those types of shots?
"It's hard without a defender," he said. "It's tough in practice."
Maybe that Iverson guy had a point after all.