Chantelle Anderson is used to strangers stopping her in a crowd. Up until recently it was only because she was 6-feet-6. "Wow, do you play basketball?" they would ask her, their mouths agape.
Suddenly she's not getting that question much any more. "Now it's more like, oh, I saw you on TV, or I saw you in the newspaper," Anderson says. Not only do they now know she plays basketball... they know the team she plays for, they know her name... they know most everything else about her.
Chantelle Anderson is having to learn how to deal with being a celebrity. Other than that... Vandy's junior center has just about everything going her way. She's featured in magazines. She's the preseason SEC player of the year. She's a Naismith candidate. She's the best player on the third-ranked team in the nation. (The Commodores open play against Eastern Kentucky Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Gym.)
More than that, Anderson has an infectious laugh, a disarming wit, and a dazzling smile that lights up a room. She has what the tabloids would call "star power"-- but the beautiful thing is, she doesn't seem to realize it yet. She still seems amazed by it all.
At the recent SEC Media Days, reporters flocked around her-- and she stayed around to accommodate the very last one. Half of them mispronounced her name (it's shawn-TELL, not SHAN-tell), and she never bothered to correct them.
Fame hasn't gone to her head... at least not yet.
Anderson has led Jim Foster's Commodores in scoring both of the last two years. She came within a hair's breadth last year of an NCAA record, shooting 72.3% from the floor for the season. In Jim Foster's post-oriented offense, Anderson has thrived.
"I just thought the system at Vanderbilt would fit me the best," said Anderson, asked how she ended up a Commodore. "I liked Coach Foster and his history with post players. I knew that he always tried to build his team around post players. My goal has always been to be one of the best players in the nation, hopefully by the end of my career.
"I also wanted to play professionally. I mean, you can be the best post player around, and if you don't get the ball, no one will ever know. So I knew I needed to go somewhere where I could get the ball and show what I could do. I never thought [Foster] would give me so many opportunities.
"Coach Foster has helped me to improve so much-- not just Coach Foster, but Coach [Pete] Gaudet. All of our coaches have helped me."
Her sophomore season was highlighted by a breakthrough victory over the usually invincible Tennessee Lady Vols in the SEC Tournament. Pat Summitt, coach of the rival Lady Vols and the reigning queen of women's basketball, raves about Anderson and the job Foster's staff has done developing her.
"She's a big pain in my side," laughed Summitt at Media Days "Keeps me awake at night.
"Seriously, she plays excellent position. Her fundamentals are impeccable. Credit the coaching staff for her development, and also Chantelle for the type of poise and development that she has committed to. She's a great talent. She's become an anchor for them. With the personnel that Vanderbilt has, she's the one that allows them to spread their offense.
"And she's so efficient! After a game you say, how many shots did she miss? You know that she's not going to miss many."
Anderson says she chose Vandy in order to play against teams like the Lady Vols. "I wanted to play in the SEC, because it's the toughest conference around. To be the best you have to play against the best, and we play against the best every night."
As good as Anderson has been her first two seasons, Coach Foster says there's still plenty of room for improvement in the next two. "Sure, she can be better," says Foster. "She can be a better rebounder, she can be a better defender, she can be a better passer. Now... if you're asking me, can she shoot better than 72%, THAT might be a little unrealistic."
Anderson has set two main goals for herself this year: to improve her defense, and to diversify her game on offense. As a result, she says, her shooting percentage may actually drop a bit.
"You always want to make every shot you take, but of course that's not going to happen," says Anderson. "My coaches have actually told me that for me to be better, my shooting percentage has to go down, because I need to diversify my shots more, and maybe move to the outside, which will make us harder to scout.
"I need to take more 3's. I need to take more jumpers and make people come out and guard me, so that it opens up the post more. I think even if I shoot an extraordinary percentage from outside, say 50%, I'm going to shoot more, and it's going to make my overall percentage go down. I totally understand that. I don't want people to look at my percentage and say, 'She's only shooting 50%, so she's not doing as well.'
"I'm not saying I'm going to become a guard. I will stick primarily with what has made me and us successful." In other words, scoring the high-percentage basket from the low post.
From her hometown of Vancouver, Washington to Nashville is a long plane ride, but Anderson has found a second home on the Vanderbilt campus. One of the things she finds most appealing is the closeness she has with her teammates.
"We're very close," she says. "We go out together, we go dancing together... we went to the haunted house the other day. It's great. I guess you don't have to like the people you play with, but it definitely makes it more fun."
A Human & Organizational Development major, Anderson takes the academic side of college very seriously.
"You can't beat the education from Vanderbilt," said Anderson. "You get a degree from Vanderbilt, and you can get a job almost anywhere."
Had she been born with an Y chromosome, a star of her magnitude would be faced with some difficult choices right about now-- like whether to jump to the pros after only a season or two in college. But fortunately for Vanderbilt, the WNBA hasn't progressed to that point just yet.
Would she consider jumping at the end of her junior year?
"No way," she says. "To leave early for $50,000 a year makes absolutely no sense. I mean, if you're going to leave for $12 million, well that's very much a different story! But until somebody offers me $12 million... I don't think that's going to happen. So no, I won't be leaving."