Hoops Recruiting: Cowboys Target Anderson

James Anderson, a 6-foot-6 guard from Junction City, Ark., is one of Oklahoma State's top targets for the 2007 basketball recruiting class. The athletic Anderson, who won the high jump competition with a leap of 6 feet, 5 inches in the AA state track meet last week, is ranked as the 32nd best player in the nation by Scout's Dave Telep, and the fourth-best small forward prospect in the U.S.

"I consider myself a scorer but I also like running the guard and passing the ball," said Anderson, who joins the likes of Gary Johnson of Houston Aldine (No. 19 in Telep's last rankings), Leonard Washington of Lake Charles, La. (ranked 54th), Jai Lucas of Houston Bellaire (ranked 58th overall and the ninth-best point guard) and Isaiah Rusher (Houston Bellaire) as some of the Cowboys' top targets in what will be the first class to officially sign with Sean Sutton as OSU's head coach.

Anderson averaged 32 points, 12 rebounds and three assists for Junction City High School, a small school on the Arkansas-Louisiana border, in earning the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Mr. Basketball for 2006. Anderson was the leader of a Junction City team that was 27-6 last season, and advanced to the Class 2A state tournament before losing in the quarterfinals.

Anderson, whose junior year of high school doesn't end until Junction City dismisses classes on June 2, is bettering his game playing for the Arkansas Wings team which placed third in the 17-and-under state AAU tournament this past weekend. The Wings and Anderson will compete in the Nike Memorial tournament this weekend in Nashville, Tenn., with hopes of qualifying for the Peach Jam event later this summer in Atlanta.

In addition to competing for the Arkansas Wings throughout the summer, Anderson will get the opportunity to showcase his talents this summer at the NBA Top 100 Camp (scheduled for late June) and the Nike All-American Camp (July 6-9).

Junction City head coach Joe Paul Hammett says there's no doubt that the 6-foot-6, 190-pound Anderson deserves to be invited to those prestigious events.

"James is a special kid," Hammett said. "He's the best basketball player I've coached in 20 years as a coach, but he's also the best person that I've had as a basketball player. He's a super person. As far as academics, he's been taking care of that.

"As far as basketball skills, James can do a little bit of all of it. He plays the point for me when I need him to, he can shoot the three, he is able to drive the ball, and he's good enough to take you inside and score," he continued. "He's a super passer on top of that. He could get 50 (points) a night, and he averaged 32, but he's the type of player that wants to give it up and include his teammates."

But coach, Cowboy fans want to know if can he play defense? "Defen sively he likes to get after it on that end (of the floor) and that's a rarity," Hammett says. "Most of all the really good players in high school are looking at scoring, and he can definitely score, that's his number one strength, but he can play on both ends of the court."

Anderson made an unofficial visit to Oklahoma State last October and saw the Cowboys' scrimmage and a football game. "It was a great atmosphere. I really liked the crowd," said the soft-spoken Anderson.

"He's a quiet kid. He's gotten a lot of attention, especially in the past year, but he doesn't let it go to this head. He knows that basketball is a team game and likes to include his teammates," said Hammett.

Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Baylor have been the three schools recruiting Anderson the hardest, but in recent months he has begun hearing from others. "Those three have been in on him from the beginning," his coach says. "Oklahoma State has been after him pretty hard. Arkansas, with him being from Arkansas, is also on him pretty hard. We've gotten several offers here lately (from) Kansas, Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Virginia Tech."

Anderson, who will compete in the Arkansas Meet of Champions track meet (which includes all the winners in each class from last week's state meets) on Wednesday in Hot Springs, had little to say about his recruitment, declining to say if he was going to schedule any unofficial visits for this summer.

Hammett, however, said the two of them have talked about making some trips if they can find the time. "If he has some time later in the summer, and I can get away, I told him we'll do it," the coach said.

Hammett is hoping his standout athlete will make a decision during the November signing period. "That's, hopefully, what James will do," he says. "Hopefully, he'll narrow it down and get it done during the early period. I would like that so the pressure is off him so he can be concentrating on his senior season, but it's his decision. By August, and maybe even before then if he wants to make a verbal commitment, he'll have a good idea where he wants to go, or at least have it narrowed down to one or two schools any way."

Hammett said he plans to enjoy coaching him for one more season. "In 20 years of coaching high school basketball he's by far the best I've ever had. He's one of a kind."

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