Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kyle Anderson at peace with his choice of UCLA

Kyle Anderson at peace with his choice of UCLA

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FAIRVIEW – Kyle Anderson used Twitter to break the news, but Tuesday he let his jacket do the talking.

Anderson, a former star at Paterson Catholic and a senior at St. Anthony, went to school Tuesday wearing a powder blue UCLA warm-up jacket.

It was his way of letting people know that New Jersey’s premier basketball recruit was headed west to play for Ben Howland and the Bruins.

“I think I did this because I just turned 18 and I think I want to grow up,” said Anderson, who celebrated his birthday Tuesday. “This is part of me maturing.”

The gazelle-like 6-foot-8 guard already is plenty mature on the court, and he approached this decision with great care. He had narrowed his choices to five big-time schools: UCLA, Seton Hall, Florida, St. John’s and Georgetown.

Anderson, a Fairview resident, took his last official visit last weekend to Florida and said he had a good time, but his choice came down to Seton Hall or UCLA.

Pirates coach Ralph Willard came to Anderson’s home in Fairview to make one more appeal Monday night.

“It was the hometown school, and with the fans being from New Jersey, it was tough,” Anderson said. “[I would tell the fans] please don’t boo me at games.”

After Willard left, Anderson met with his family and said he wanted to be a Bruin. They started calling coaches to tell them the news. Word leaked out on Anderson’s Twitter page about 10:30 p.m., which wasn’t part of the plan because Anderson wanted to announce it on his birthday.

“I don’t know what happened last night. I don’t know how it got out,” said Anderson, who had more than 25 texts and calls he hadn’t returned Tuesday. “Honestly.”

In the end, Anderson chose style — West Coast style. He’ll supply the substance.

“The way the Pac-12 is, it’s more spread out, and I like what a good job Coach Howland has done and does with his point guards,” Anderson said. “He lets them play. It’s a much more guard-oriented offense.”

Anderson said if someone asked during the last two weeks where he he’d wind up, he would say Seton Hall.

“It was tough calling the other four schools, but Coach Willard was the toughest,” Anderson said. “He did such a great job recruiting me. They had their eye on me, and to tell them I wouldn’t be there in the fall … it was tough. I just decided UCLA was a better fit.”

“I think with the five schools we narrowed it down to, he couldn’t go wrong with any of the schools,” said Kyle Anderson Sr., Kyle’s father and coach with the Playaz AAU program. “I think Seton Hall did the best job recruiting him, but in this business, the best recruiter doesn’t always win.

“You can recruit as hard as you want and as well as you want, but each student-athlete has to make his own choice and there are various factors with each of them. There is no textbook way of how to recruit someone, but if there was, Seton Hall did it.”

Anderson seemed at peace with his decision. It’s no longer a big deal for a New Jersey kid who grew up in the shadow of New York City to go cross-country.

With the mechanisms of big-time AAU basketball, Anderson has played all over the country. He’s already been to UCLA three times.

Part of the allure of UCLA is it arguably is the most storied college basketball program. It has the specter of John Wooden, Pauley Pavilion and a record 11 national championships. UCLA was 23-11 last season.

“There are a lot of great players to come from UCLA,” Anderson said. “When you play for them, you want to keep the tradition going. You won’t be remembered there if you aren’t winning.”

Anderson comes from a basketball family and has been devoted to the game since he was a child. The family dog is named Magic, for Earvin “Magic” Johnson, of course. Johnson was a point guard in Los Angeles for a long time, and Anderson hopes he can bring a similar kind of excitement.

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