I like watching Antonio Anderson play basketball.
In fact, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in general are an especially watchable bunch. Their frontcourt of Mike Harris and Joey Dorsey has torn up the D-League of late, topped off by Harris’ 35-12 in Tulsa on Saturday and Dorsey’s 27-15 (on 13-for-15 shooting) at home against Reno on Monday. Dorsey is on assignment from the Rockets and could be headed back to Houston before too long, and Harris is moving up in the blogger call-up rankings produced by the folks at Ridiculous Upside and Hardwood Paroxysm as well as yours truly. In short, expect the Vipers to be receiving plenty of ink in this space over the coming weeks.
But it’s the tallest member of the three-guard unit that starts for RGV who has our attention today. Now in his rookie season after four years of collegiate ball at Memphis, Anderson continues to do a bit of everything just as he did in Conference USA. On an unselfish team that passes the ball well (in Monday’s win over the Bighorns, the Vipers assisted 32 of 44 field goals, nearly 73 percent), Anderson leads the way with 7.1 assists per game, which is good for third in the D-League. At 6-foot-6, he often has the advantage of seeing the floor over opposing guards, and his crisp passes move the ball effectively. Anderson finds his bigs on the blocks from the corners and wings, delivers the ball off the dribble and occasionally facilitates from the post when he has a substantial size edge. Monday’s performance featured a beautiful lefty touch pass from the right block across the floor that happened with such fluidity it made my head spin.
Putting the ball in the hoop hasn’t exactly been a problem for Anderson either. Though he hits only 31.3 percent of his attempts from all the way outside, Anderson can knock down the mid-range jumper and likes to attack the rim as well. He is getting to the foul line six times per game, which makes the fact that he finishes better than 80 percent of his freebies all the more useful. AA looks comfortable running the floor and getting out on the break both as a leader and finisher. His 17.7 points per game rank among the league’s top 20 scorers, and while he could be more efficient from the field, his 56.6 percent true shooting is nothing to sneeze at either.
The only real issue on the offensive side thus far for Anderson has been his turnovers. He gives the ball away nearly four times per game and needs to be wary of over-dribbling in traffic and getting a little too ambitious on those cross-court passes from the corner. While it would be good to see Anderson cut down in this respect, it’s hard to harp too much when he is contributing as much as he is to the offense otherwise.
On the other side of the floor, the man brings a reputation from college that he has kept up so far. With three Conference USA All-Defense selections already on his resume (including a nod as the conference’s top defender as a senior), Anderson has brought his length and rugged approach at that end to the D-League, sticking opposing swingmen and forcing them into contested shots and toward help defenders. He will be an asset at that end for the Vipers all year.
Antonio Anderson does a lot of good things on a basketball court. He’s worth a look when you get a chance.
Unrelated recommended reading: Be sure to check out the newest arrival to the D-League blogosphere, Kevin Henry’s 66ers Nation, dedicated to covering the Tulsa 66ers. He chatted yesterday with Moses Ehambe about the difference between last year’s slow start out of the gate and this year’s 6-5 beginning:
Ehambe told me the locker room chemistry is good, just like last year, but it’s the mental mindset of the team that has changed the most.
“We have more of a team approach this year,” Ehambe said. “No one on this team is thinking ‘I have to get mine’ or thinking only what they have to do to get to the next level. We also have a lot more confidence this year. We know we can play with and beat the best teams in the D-League.”
Be sure to check out Kevin’s work as the season rolls on!