Justin Anderson played at the NBA Top 100 Camp at JPJ last summer, and Wahoo fans eagerly await his return to the building. (Courtesy: Rivals.com)
The fourth member, and arguably the centerpiece, of the 2012 UVA basketball recruiting class is Montrose Christian's Justin Anderson. The 6' 6" small forward joins Teven Jones, Mike Tobey, Evan Nolte, and, as of this week, Justin Miller in Charlottesville this fall. (Hyperlinks will send you to our preview of each recruit)
Justin Anderson originally verballed to the University of Maryland early in the recruiting period. After wisely realizing that the Maryland athletics department was in the process of imploding, Anderson decided to reopen his recruitment and committed to Tony Bennett shortly thereafter. The commitment was one of the biggest gets in recent memory; Anderson was a Rivals five-star recruit at the time (though a negligible slip to 35th in the nation has since docked him back to four), and ESPN puts him at 49th nationally.
Anderson is coming off an extremely successful senior campaign at Montrose Christian. He led his Mustangs to a 21-2 record, averaging 18 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. Last month, Anderson was named the Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year. He also finished the year with a 3.11 GPA, volunteers locally as a basketball coach, and is a devoted member of his church community, all of which likely connected him with coach Tony Bennett.
One wonders why Justin ever considered any other school but UVA, as he is a perfect fit for Tony Bennett's system. Bennett has shown a strong inclination for athletic wing players with length, and that's what he is getting. The most exciting part of Anderson's game is what ESPN praises as his "god given off the charts athletic ability." He comes ready to run the fast break, make plays off the dribble, or slash to the hoop. Importantly, Anderson has used both his athleticism and excellent fundamentals to develop into an excellent defender. He's quick, he's strong, and he's active on the glass too. Justin is a better than average, though not lights out, shooter. While it isn't the most consistant part of his game, he'll hit an outside shot or mid-range jumper.
An interesting aspect of Anderson to watch is his fire and intensity. In the huddle or on the floor, he always seems to be dialed in and infusing energy into his team. When Montrose was knotted in a tight game against Montverde earlier this month on ESPN, I thought he would explode based on the face he was making and the noises he was emitting during a late timeout. When he missed a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer, he was beyond devastated. Wahoo fans are going to love Anderson's fire...just as much as rivals may hate it. Justin will probably have to learn to control his emotions on the court, as technical fouls aren't much part of UVA's game-plan. Either way, the moxie and attitude he brings to the mix will be a welcome addition.
How will Justin Anderson's impressive physical tools translate to the college game? His raw ability means that he'll make an impact right away. I expect him to adjust quickly to the team's defensive scheme and have plenty of talent to matchup with ACC competition. Of our first-years, I think it's a safe bet that Anderson sees the most minutes. He'll be a part of the wing rotation as we discussed yesterday, with Malcolm Brogdon, Joe Harris, Paul Jesperson, and Evan Nolte.
There's even a decent shot that Justin could crack the starting 5. You can pencil (or even pen) Jontel Evans, Malcolm Brogdon, Joe Harris, and Akil Mitchell into the starting lineup. Based on personnel alone, the team may be best off playing Atkins or Nolte at the 4 or having Mitchell take that spot with Tobey starting at center. However, Bennett has a tendency to blur the lines between positions. Obviously, there's a ways to go in terms of evaluation before the season starts. Still, if I were a betting man, I would take Anderson for the fifth starting spot at this point in time.
If the first highlight film doesn't get you pumped for next year, check your pulse. Some of the dunks he throws down will bring JPJ to the ground. You'll see Anderson's shooting ability, but mainly his skills at slashing to the basket, winning slam dunk competitions, and being extremely emotional. He is a baller, there's no question about it. My favorite part of the video may be the pass at 2:15, when he threads the needle, then turns back to play defense without bothering to watch the result f the play. I also embedded an extended video with Whitey Reid if you'd like to better get to know this future Wahoo.