What do all four of these guys have in common?
They are the only Spartans in history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in a career.
Here are the four in order of their numbers (Points, Rebounds, Assists):
Steve Smith 2,263 – 740 – 453
Charlie Bell 1,468 – 624 – 371
Ken Redfield 1,212 – 625 – 314
Alan Anderson 1,165 – 503 – 304
That's pretty select company by any programs' standard, even one with the history, scrutiny, and pressure of Michigan State.
It is rare today that a college basketball player sticks around long enough to deliver their best basketball in their final season. With the NBA dollars and the high profile fame and fortune that comes with individual shoe contracts and endorsements, it's tough to tell a player of the caliber of a Jason Richardson or a Zach Randolph to stay in school to improve their games and earn their degrees.
Could Alan Anderson be considered a late bloomer in that respect? Yeah, you could say that.
Eric Snow was a late bloomer too. There were few observers outside of Jud Heathcote who felt that Snow would play in the NBA back in 1995.
Ten years later, "Ice" still has a job in the "L" and has the tax returns to prove it.
A few weeks ago, some people were surprised when Tom Izzo said that Alan Anderson was the most NBA ready player on his team.
Anderson has done nothing but reinforce his coaches comments since then. Since the February 1st loss to Illinois, Alan is averaging 16.0 points and 6.1 rebounds (12 games). He has been a key defender at a variety of positions and has displayed many things (i.e. leadership, intensity) that don't add up on the stat sheet.
In short, he's playing like a senior.
Yeah, I know he missed those free throws at the end of the Iowa game.
In case you've forgotten, Steve Smith once missed free throw late in a big game (1990 Regional versus Georgia Tech).
Scott Skiles did too (1986 Regional versus Kansas).
If either of those free throws had gone in, the ultimate outcome of each of those games would have been different (and much less painful) for Spartans everywhere.
Hindsight, and possibly the NBA, will show that Alan Anderson was truly one of the best and most accomplished players in Spartan basketball history.
I'd be willing to wager that his senior teammates will be remembered more fondly in future years as well.
Time and retrospection have a way of doing that.
Anderson and the other three seniors who have seen major minutes over the last four years have all been put in some tough spots during their stay in East Lansing. Some of them have been asked to play out of position (Anderson and Chris Hill); another has had to live with the stigma of unrealistic expectations (Kelvin Torbert); while another has probably done more than most people will ever give him credit for (Tim Bograkos).
Along the way, each of these guys have stayed out of trouble, played hard, and never complained.
They also won a lot of games – and most importantly – they are all going to graduate.
Spartan legends like Magic, Skiles, and Cleaves can't even claim to have done (or not done) all of those things.
Whatever they accomplish over the next couple of weeks is moot – or a least it should be.
These four players have more than proven their worth to their team, their fans, and to their university.
Even before last weekend.
Anyone who fails to acknowledge that is a loser.