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ESPNRise NHSI Recap: Justin Anderson Impressions

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As I posted earlier, Maryland 2012 commitment Justin Anderson was on ESPN2 earlier today, with Anderson's Montrose Christian squaring off against Boys & Girls (from NYC) in the ESPNRise National High School Invitational. Montrose won fairly easily, defeating B&G 83-61. They'll meet the winner of Oak Hill-Dwyer tomorrow at 2:00, which you can see on ESPN. Anderson led the way for Montrose, dropping 18 points on 8-13 shooting and pitching in 6 rebounds.

For my part, this was one of the first full games I was able to see Anderson play (missed yesterday's game). For quite a few others, I imagine it's the same case. Scouting reports can say a lot, but eyes can say just as much. That's not to say the scouting reports are wrong, of course - this was one game, which is hardly an accurate representation of Anderson's entire game. But given what we have, it's still eye-opening for a few reasons

First off, Anderson is very physically impressive. I know that's kind of repeating what we already know, but he seems huge on the court. While he might not be a legit 6-7 (no one is their listed height, anyway) he's definitely bigger than 6-5. Even more impressive, he's thick, and well-built on top of it. Remember when everyone said he had an NBA body? They were right.

They were right about his athleticism, too, at least what we saw from it today. The most striking example was in the second quarter on the fast break: a Montrose guard, outnumbered 2-to-1, saw Anderson closing and threw up an alley-oop. Unfortunately it was pretty misplaced, but Anderson somehow got up snagged it with one hand, and pinned it against the rim. He couldn't finish, but simply getting to that was almost jaw-dropping. He also threw down a ridiculous baseline dunk, which is a sight I hope to see a lot over the next few years. His leaping ability was shown on rebounding, too; multiple times he jumped right over people in better position to get a tip or grab the rebound outright.

But we all knew about that stuff. The big variables in Anderson's game, and the ones that are going to determine how well he does, are offensive: his skills, shooting, and scoring ability, to be specific. He has all the tools to be a great offensive player, of course, but the consistency isn't there yet (some would say that neither are the skills or the shooting...yet). As an example of that, he only managed 9 points and was quiet offensively yesterday against John Carroll.

Anderson's offensive performance was much better today, especially in the first half. He had 10 points in the first quarter alone, dropping two early threes and getting a few garbage buckets. He finished with 18 points on 8-13 shooting, getting a few buckets closer to the basket in the second half. His most impressive shot was draining a 25-footer, just his second attempt of the game. He doesn't look like a lights-out shooter, but he can definitely knock down an open three more often than not.

The best way to describe his offensive game: efficient. It's tough to get 18 points quietly, but that's how I felt about Anderson. The front-loaded performance has a lot to do with that, I'm sure, but, really, that's kind of just his game. The vast majority of his points came off of open looks from the perimeter or very close to the basket; he didn't go off the dribble very much or create his own shot. And at times he seemed to disappear a little from the offense. I'm not sure why - if it's the offense, the players, or Anderson - but no matter the reason, I'm not very concerned.

See, getting garbage buckets or knocking down open looks (as compared to creating his own shot) isn't something Maryland needs. Nick Faust and Terrell Stoglin are all the volume scorers Gary Williams needs (and wants, I'm guessing). Throw in a savvy, complete point guard in Sterling Gibbs, and Anderson fits the puzzle perfectly.  I don't doubt he'll play better when he has a dynamic scorer to play off of in the offense, and I don't know if MC has that this year.

Of course, all of the intangibles people lauded were there, too. He had a ton of passion, always seemed into the game, and consistently gave great effort on the boards. That should work well with Gary, so long as he doesn't lose his composure and get a silly tech, like he's done occasionally in the past.

All in all, I was pretty impressed. I didn't see a lot I didn't expect, but all of the positive thoughts were reinforced. Offensively, he was pretty quiet for the final three quarters, but that was kind of to be expected, too. I still love the way he fits the personnel Maryland has coming in.

Maryland's looking a few other Montrose playesr, too, named Michael Carrera and Kevin Larsen. Larsen got minimal playing time and didn't look too impressive aside from just being big, but Carrera had a whale of a game. He's too short as it is right now - his listed height is 6-6 - but he's an insanely good rebounder with some surprising skill. If you list the most important rebounding traits, Carrera has them all: unlimited energy, strong hands, strength, long arms, and a feel for the ball. His stat line ended up with something around 14 points and 18 rebounds (or thereabouts), and yes, it was that good.

If he had an extra inch or two, or could develop a face-up game offensively, he'd be guaranteed to get a high-major offer. And in all honesty, he's the kind of guy that I imagine would get an offer if Gary got desperate late in the process. His size is a negative, but you'd be foolish to act like he has nothing to add. He'll end up at a mid-major most likely, but keep an eye on him.

Anyone else watch the game? Any other thoughts?