Unlike Kearney and Dawson, however, Anderson, other than in AAU tournaments in the summers, has not had the benefit of playing top-flight competition during his high school career spent at Class C Suttons Bay, and he might have the furthest to go of the three to become a major impact player as a Spartan.
Anderson and his Suttons Bay teammates played Saginaw Buena Vista, a Class C school that often plays Class A and B opponents on its schedule and features one of the top scorers in the state in darkhorse Mr. Basketball candidate George Goodman, in the Meijer Holiday Hoops Invitational Dec. 28 at the Breslin Center.
After hanging close for a half, BV's penetrating guards and length in the passing lanes overwhelmed the Norsemen in the second half, winning the game 91-61.
For MSU fans who made the trip to see Anderson, they were probably disappointed. Not necessarily with his play, but with the fact that he was just not on the court much when the game was still competitive. He picked up his third foul with five minutes to go in the first half, then picked up his fourth just three minutes into the third quarter. I'm sure the Suttons Bay coaching staff planned to play Anderson all 32 minutes, or close to it, so having him in foul trouble certainly changed their ability to defend the quicker and more athletic Buena Vista squad.
The good: Anderson flashed the potential that landed him at MSU on a sequence in the first quarter. He grabbed a defensive rebound in traffic, turned and pushed the ball up-court and found a teammate streaking to the basket with a great pass. The teammate hesitated after catching the ball, costing him a chance to convert and the Buena Vista defender blocked his shot attempt starting a break the other way.
Anderson, who by then was under his own basket, trailed the play, caught up and blocked a layup attempt by Goodman at the other end.
He also flashed his leaping ability on the first possession of the second half, when Suttons Bay ran a designed backdoor lob for him that he caught over two defenders and dunked easily in traffic.
Anderson is unquestionably one of the best athletes in the state at the high school level, if not the best. He plays with effort, seems coachable and is potentially going to be a very good defensive player with his length and ability to get in the passing lanes. Overall though, he's not as developed as Kearney or Dawson.
The not so good: There are two pretty glaring weaknesses in Anderson's game right now: shooting and ball-handling. He did not look comfortable handling the ball under pressure. He turned it over four times in about 21 minutes and the play that went as his lone assist, even if it was a nice recovery, was still a result of sloppy ball-handling. Anderson was trying to split two defenders near halfcourt, he lost his balance and had the ball knocked away, but was able to dive and bat the ball forward to a teammate who converted a layup. I don't think Anderson is going to be asked to be a primary ball-handler early on at MSU, but he's clearly not that comfortable putting it on the floor and that could make him a turnover risk at the high major college level.
Anderson also had a poor shooting performance against Buena Vista. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting, he was 2-for-7 from 3-point range and he was 0-for-2 at the free throw line.
Now, Anderson is clearly the best player at Suttons Bay, so it's necessary for him to be a volume shooter for that team to succeed. I don't necessarily look at poor shooting numbers and think he's never going to be a good shooter. Right now, however, his 3-point shot looks flat at times and his shot selection isn't great. I'm interested to see how that will change as he goes from primary option in high school to Michigan State, where he's going to have to fill a role to get on the court early in his career. Anderson seems coachable enough to make that transition, but right now athleticism alone is his best tool and I'm not sure that's enough to get him minutes.
The Breslin Center could've also played into Anderson's poor shooting performance. With many MSU fans in the crowd excited to see him play, I'm sure Anderson felt some pressure to put on a show. That, along with the foul trouble, may have caused him to press some. Last year, during the Class C Final Four at the Breslin, he had the same issue, shooting 12-for-38 in two games.
With higher profile wings already in tow, I'm not sure Anderson was signed by MSU to make an immediate impact anyway. He might be more athletic than Kearney or Dawson, and it will be interesting to see how much he improves while competing against better players in practice every day. Right now though, I think his ability to contribute is a notch lower than his 2011 wing counterparts.
Other standouts: I also caught the Flint Powers/Okemos game. Here are a few other players who had good performances.
George Goodman, Buena Vista: The senior guard is averaging just over 31 points per game for the season. He scored 25 against Suttons Bay on 10-for-20 shooting. He's only about 6-feet tall, but Goodman has really long arms, he finishes well against bigger players in the lane, he has range beyond the 3-point line and I don't know if any guard in the state can consistently stay in front of him. Goodman has a floater that he gets off from a variety of angles that is incredibly accurate.
Vince Adams, Powers: Bigger name teammates Patrick Lucas-Perry and Javontae Hawkins get more attention at Powers, but Adams, a guard, is clearly their best player. He finishes as well as any high school guard I've seen this year. He's a lefty with an incredibly quick first step. Much like last year's surprise impact player DeMarco Sanders, who went from barely playing as a junior to All-State as a senior and earned a scholarship to Ferris State, Adams should attract the attention of good Division II programs by the end of this season. The main surprise with Adams has nothing to do with his game. People on the AAU circuit knew he could play for the last two years. It's how the Powers coaching staff couldn't find any minutes at all for him as a junior last year.
Chris Harrison-Docks, Okemos: A junior point guard, Harrison-Docks had a great first half against Powers. He played tough defense, he got his teammates involved on offense and picked his spots well to get his own offense, flashing his great ball-handling ability and knockdown perimeter shot. His release is one of the quickest in the state. Down the stretch, he had a couple of bad turnovers that helped Powers mount a late comeback and steal a game they played poorly in, but Harrison-Docks is also the main reason Okemos led most of this game.
Mack McKearney, Okemos: With a name like Mack McKearney, he has to be tough, right? The Dartmouth-bound senior had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists. He's a broad-shouldered guard with enough finesse to play out on the perimeter, but hard-nosed enough to mix it up inside. He was the best rebounder in this game even if he was far from the biggest guy on the court.
Patrick Lucas-Perry, Powers: MSU fans probably remember Lucas-Perry's name from a couple years ago when, as a sophomore, he had a great state title performance at the Breslin Center that reportedly netted him high major interest. Since then, his stock has dropped some, but the senior is still an intelligent point guard who rebounded from a terrible first half against Okemos to help Powers win a game against a good team despite it not being their best performance. Lucas-Perry finished with 15 points (5-for-17 shooting) and 3 assists, but the big key for him was zero turnovers in the second half. His shot selection is questionable at times, but he understands how to take care of the ball and he's a very good passer.
Javontae Hawkins, Powers: One of the most sought-after 2012 players in the state, the junior wing didn't play well against Okemos. He's athletic and runs the floor really well, but his biggest weakness is strength. He gets pushed around a bit and that caused him to short-arm some shot attempts that he should've finished. He scored 10 points on 15 shots. Hawkins is still a great prospect and he's well known for having a great attitude and work ethic, but adding some strength should help make him a more consistent player.