Hoops Recruiting: How Good Is James Anderson?

James Anderson, the Oklahoma State signee, was recognized by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as Mr. Basketball for 2006. Midway through Anderson's senior year he is putting up numbers that all but guarantee he will win the award again. GoPokes.com recently visited with Anderson's head coach at Junction City High School, and one of the coaches whose team he almost single-handedly defeated.

Anderson averaged 31 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists in leading Junction City to a 27-6 record and into the Class 2A state tournament last season as a junior. But his numbers through 15 games of his senior season (including scoring a career-high 51 points in last Friday's win over Bearden) are convincing even opposing coaches that he may be one of the best to ever play basketball in the Arkansas prep ranks. The Oklahoma State signee is averaging nearly 40 points a game midway through his senior season.

"I told Sean (Sutton) that he had better keep recruiting two guards because he won't have this one for more than about two years," said Fayetteville (Ark.) High School head coach Barry Gebhart. "I saw him three nights in our tournament (in early December), and he played against very good competition, and we've had some great players in the tournament and I'm not sure anybody has ever had a better tournament than he had.

"For those three games, if he plays like that all the time, he's the best player to come out of Arkansas in quite a time. I'd put him up there with (Ronnie) Brewer, Joe Johnson and Corliss Williamson. He's big time. He can compete at a national level against anybody in the country," said Gebhart, who should know talent when he sees it since he's coached more than his share at Fayetteville High School in former Arkansas Razorback Ronnie Brewer (now a rookie with the NBA's Utah Jazz), former KU Jayhawk Nick Bradford and ex-Rice Owl Scott Oliver.

In the three-day Holiday Hoops Tournament, Anderson averaged 38.3 points, including scoring 43 of Junction City's 66 points in a two-point victory over Gebhart's Fayetteville team. He added 33 points against Springdale Har-Ber, ranked No. 1 among all Class 7A schools in Arkansas, and then put up an impressive 39-point, 18-rebound performance against Richwood High School of Monroe, La.

"Darrell Arthur, now at Kansas, was in our tournament last year, and the list goes on and on ... but I don't know anybody who has been more impressive than what he was for the three days of our tournament," Gebhart said.

But Anderson hasn't stop after those three games. He has been outstanding in leading the Dragons to a 13-2 record and the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A. He has scored 40 or more points in four games, including the 51-point outing last week. In that 87-64 victory over Bearden, Anderson scored 22 points in the second quarter and finished the first half with 36 of his team's 44 points. Junction City head coach Joe Paul Hammett pulled Anderson with 3:44 remaining in the game.

"The thing about him is everybody is geared up to stop him and he's still able to get his points, and play with his teammates," said Hammett. "He's not necessarily looking for his shot every trip down the floor. He's going to give it to the open guy, somebody who has the open shot."

Anderson has attracted plenty of attention from opponents this season, including a game in early January against Strong High School. Strong ran a triangle and two defense with the two players guarding Anderson the entire night. "They were more concerned with James not scoring than whether they could beat us or not," Hammett says. The defensive tactics failed – Junction City won 75-42, and Anderson finished with 29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks (but maybe Strong's strategy did work because the 29 points tied a season low for Anderson).

Hammett says that Anderson is more than living up to his expectations. "Most definitely. We had talked a little bit before the season started that he may have to score a little bit more than he did last year, and he scored a lot last year. But with us losing the post kid that we had I thought he might have to score a little bit more and he has. Defensively, he's better. I don't like to do it early but he's going to guard their best guy late in the ballgame, if he's not in foul trouble. On that end he's been better this year than he was last year. There have been several close games where at the end he's gotten the steal and took it all the way (down the court) and scored," the Junction City coach said.

Hammett has seen his share of jaw-dropping plays from Anderson the past two seasons, but one from last Friday night's career performance stands out. "In the third quarter, one of my guards made a super pass to him. He was on the left side of the floor on the break, and they had some guys back on defense, he threw him an alley-oop which he caught with his left hand and flushed it," he said. "For a high school kid, or any kid, when you see them use their off-hand and do something like that, that's special. A lot of kids jump up and dunk it but very few of them are skilled enough to do it with their left hand."

Gebhart, who was the assistant varsity coach at Fayetteville High School when a youngster by the name of Sean Sutton played there, believes that Anderson will be a difference maker when he arrives at OSU. "I would think he's got a chance to make an immediate impact. I know that Sean's recruited well and they've got some good players coming back, but a kid of his talent... the kid knows how to play the game, and can score from anywhere on the floor."

Anderson Game-by-Game
Nov. 14 vs. Summerfield, La (W, 80-60).......... 40 points, 17 rebounds, 7 steals
Dec. 7 vs. Fayetteville (W, 66-64)............. 43 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals, 2 blocks
Dec. 8 vs. Springdale Har-Ber (L, 84-60).......... 33 points
Dec. 9 vs. Richmond, La. (W, 69-61)............ 39 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals
Dec. 15 vs. Hermitage (W, 87-37)........... 33 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists
Dec. 18 vs. Summerfield, La (L) ............ Did not play
Dec. 19 vs. Bearden (W, 78-58) ............ Did not play
Dec. 21 vs. Stephens (W, 77-70)........... 42 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists
Dec. 27 vs. England (W, 74-48) ........... 37 points, 10 rebounds, 8 asssists, 6 steals
Dec. 28 vs. Vilonia (W, 53-49)........... 29 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Dec. 29 vs. Conway St. Joseph (W, 72-54).......... 30 points, 9 rebounds, 8 steals, 3 assists
Jan. 5 vs. Strong (W, 75-42)........... 29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks
Jan. 9 vs. Hampton (W, 69-35).......... 34 points
Jan. 12 vs. Bearden (W, 87-64).......... 51 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals

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