By LARRY VAUGHT
Derek Anderson played a key role in helping Kentucky win the 1996 national championship and played in the NBA from 1997-2008 after being a first round pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now Anderson is spending time as an assistant coach for Tim Haworth at Louisville Male. The Bulldogs played at Marshall County Hoopfest last weekend and it was obvious Anderson is as passionate about the game now as he was when he transferred to UK from Ohio State to play for Rick Pitino.
If Anderson had not hurt his knee midway of his senior season when he was averaging about 17 points per game , most Kentucky fans remain convinced that UK would have won the national title that year, too. He had 674 points in 55 career games at UK along with 199 rebounds, 155 steals and 98 assists.
During his NBA career that included all-rookie honors as well as being part of Miami’s 2006 championship team, he averaged 12 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 assists per game. He scored 7,357 points.
Anderson, a 1997 UK graduate with a degree in pharmacy, shared his thoughts on his career and more after Male beat Murray at Hoopfest.
Question: What got you into high school coaching?
Anderson: “A couple of kids on my AAU team are going to Male and I wanted to get them established. He (Haworth) asked me if I would help (since this was his first year here) and I said I would. I am wanting to get a head coaching job, but this is just something I wanted to do to give my kids a head start. Maybe I will be a head coach in a few years. I just love teaching kids the game. It’s awesome. You are teaching them to think the game, play hard. That’s lacking now. So many kids just can’t think and they are missing the game. Coaches don’t take the time to teach the game and just let them go play.”
Question: Weren’t you a sponsor of Marshall County Hoopfest a few years ago?
Anderson: “It was good and fun. Seeing these kids develop and get better, that is what we need to do and events like this help. My avenue and my lane is basketball. So stick to it and help people out. Easier access for me on that.”
Question: Did you consider trying to dunk here at Hoopfest like you did a few years ago here during a halftime contest?
Anderson: “I can. I can still dunk. I am 45 but I can still dunk. I am practicing with these guys now and teaching them how to shoot and follow through. Teach them how to jab step. Simple stuff they don’t get. They just play. That’s not basketball.”
Question: Do these Male players know anything about Derek Anderson’s basketball career?
Anderson: “Yes. I make sure. They Google me (on the internet) and send me pictures and stuff. Most of them have heard of me but obviously have never seen me play live. But they have now. I go out there with them. I still eat good, don’t drink or nothing. Keep the same habits so I can stay in great shape.”
Question: Is working with Haworth a perfect fit for you?
Anderson: “We are different but we love the game. He is a little louder, but he loves the game like I do. He allows me to coach the kids and teach them what I know. It’s good.”
Question: While he’s hyper and active, he also relates well to kids like you?
Anderson: “Yes he does. He knows how to get where he needs to get to and we both love the game and we both want kids to play hard. I don’t believe in playing to be cool. When I played and a loose ball was on the ground, you were going to see me dive. Had nothing to do with talent. It had to do with effort. Attitude and effort wins championships.”
Question: Do you get back to UK any?
Anderson: “I see more of the games because the players just keep rotating in. It’s hard to know some of those kids. This year they have a new group. Next year I don’t know who will be here. I just watch and hope they get better. I would like to see some guys come back and grow. I want to see the program win championships. I don’t know how many we can get because it is so hard to get them. It’s not like Alabama football where you can win four or five in a few years. When you play basketball, you have to build. You can’t keep a kid if he doesn’t want to stay. But we have to find a way to get kids to play as juniors and seniors. Darius Miller helped us (win a national title) in 2012 as a senior. We need some more leadership sometimes.”
Question: How often do UK fans still ask you about the 1996 or 1997 seasons?
Anderson: “They ask about 1997 more than anything. Wherever I go, that’s what people want to know and tell me they wished I had played in ’97. Twenty years later, and that’s still the first comment I hear. They like the dunk I had at Louisville and say you should have played in ’97. Same comments. Never change.”
Question: Do you stay in touch with those UK teammates?
Anderson: “We are always together. We always text and congratulate guys on jobs and help each other out. We are still connected and I think we always will be.”