Mizzou Staff Honing in on Anderson

Asked recently whether or not he's noticed the University of Missouri men's basketball staff scouting standout junior shooting guard Dante Anderson, Jacksonville Lee Bulls (Fla.) coach Ryan Delafield laughed. "Have I seen the Missouri coaches around?" he asked rhetorically. "I see the Missouri coaches at every game!"

Delafield has gotten the impression that Anderson, a 6-4 scorer from Gainesville, Fla., is the MU staff's top target at shooting guard in what is expected to be an extra-large '08 recruiting class for the Tigers.

"I talked to [MU assistant coach] T.J. [Cleveland] and he said he'll be front and center in Nashville" to watch Anderson play at an upcoming event, Delafield said. "Dante is their No. 1 prospect."

Anderson, who InsideMizzou.com has profiled on several occasions, is a pure scorer who can shoot it from deep and finish at the hoop. Despite an unorthodox rotation on his jumper, the ball always seems to find the net. He averaged about 25 points per game en route to Gainesville player of the year honors and is rated the No. 58 prospect in the Class of 2008.

"Dante's got that that pit bill, junkyard dog [attitude]. He can score with the best of them," Delafield said.

Anderson has offers from MU, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Dayton and Ole Miss and is receiving interest from Illinois, Tennessee and Florida, among others – though it doesn't appear the Gators will offer. He has a jam-packed spring and summer planned, with coast-to-coast camps and tournaments taking up virtually all of his spare time. He's also been invited. He also was one of 10 players invited to travel to Italy and play with Team Reebok from June 6 to June 17.

Unfortunately the trip will overlap with Mizzou Elite Camp, which is scheduled for June 8-9 and which Anderson would have otherwise attended. But Jacksonville Lee High point guard Shaquille Johnson, Anderson's Bulls teammate and another MU prospect, will be attending the camp, Delafield said.

"They'll probably make a decision on Shaq after Elite Camp," Delafield said, referring to whether or not MU will tender an official scholarship offer to the scrappy, 6-foot-3 Johnson.

Ever since Delafield began coaching them as 14-year-olds, Johnson and Anderson have been telling people they'd like to play college ball together. Delafield always brushed it off – after all, how many supposed package deals actually come to fruition? – but he's starting to think it may indeed turn out to be the case.

"Coaches keep asking me, ‘Are they really a package deal?'" he said. "Could be."

The two play very well off of each other. Johnson is a combo point guard who likes to score, but he generally defers to Anderson, who happens to be the brother of former Auburn star wide receiver Robert Baker . When Anderson isn't there, though, Johnson usually fills it up. Delafield recounted a recent tournament at which Anderson called out to Johnson for a trap on an opposing ballhandler, the two converged on him, Johnson stole the ball and whipped to Anderson, who stroked an NBA-plus range 3-pointer.

"The net hardly moved," Delafield said. "When his jumper is falling and he has all the confidence in the world, it's over. He'll pull up from anywhere … He's a flat-out scorer. He doesn't go in there and just lay the ball in normal. He's going in there, absorbing contact."

Each player plays for a high school team that runs and traps and presses a lot, so they would seemingly be good fits for MU coach Mike Anderson's system. Johnson's other suitors are Dayton, Ole Miss, Central Florida, Marshall, Virginia Commonwealth and Jacksonville.

Having grown up a long way from Big 12 country, neither Anderson nor Johnson knows much about MU outside of what the coaches have talked to them about.

"I know about Missouri: Norm Stewart and the heir to the Walton's fortune who donated all of that money, Quin Snyder, Clarence Gilbert and Keyon Dooling," Delafield said. "I know all about the Big 12. It's kind of a combo league. It's got the toughness of the SEC and the openness of the Pac Ten, sometimes."

Why does it matter how much Delafield knows about Mizzou? Well, he's considering going back to college and adding to his University of Florida degree with an education doctorate, for which MU has an excellent program, he said.

"It could be a triple package deal," he said, half-joking. "I always said I'd stick around to coach them until they went to college, but it would be great for them to have that support system."

As for a timetable, Delafield said he expects the two will make commitments sometime in early August. Inside Mizzou will keep you posted.

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