Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Spurs Forward Kyle Anderson Slowly But Surely Finding His Way in the NBA
NEW YORK – After you’ve enjoyed an undefeated high school basketball season and averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists at UCLA, you might think that you have it all figured out.
But now in his second season as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, former St. Anthony’s and Paterson Catholic star Kyle Anderson knows better.
“Everything surprised me,” the 6-foot-9 Fairview, N.J., native told SNY.tv before he went scoreless as the visiting Spurs beat the Knicks, 94-84, Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
“You kinda think you have a feel from what’s going on because you’re in high school and you know a few NBA players and they tell you what it’s like, but I’ve come to know, in my second year, that what you think you know… It’s not that.”
The Spurs recently exercised the third-year option for Anderson for the 2016-17 season. After doubts about how his more methodical style of play would fit in the NBA, Anderson has earned a spot in the Spurs’ 10-man rotation. He is averaging less than 1 point with 1 rebound in about 8 minutes per game through four contests for the Spurs.
“I do remember,” Anderson, who went 65-0 in two seasons playing for Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony’s, said when asked about the doubts he faced leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft.
There were questions about his position and where he fit in an NBA system, but he has taken it all in stride.
“I don’t really like to label myself as a position, I just like to think of myself as a complete player that can play many positions.”
During the course of his young career, he has certainly proven that.
Just a few months into his rookie season, after being sent out on assignment to the Austin Spurs of the NBA Developmental League, Anderson earned the D-League Player of the Month award for February after averaging 22.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game over a stretch of nine games which saw his team put together an 8-1 record.
After being called back up, Anderson played sparingly during the latter part of his rookie year, but opened up eyes across the league with his impressive showing in the NBA’s 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. En route to leading the Spurs to the tournament championship, Anderson was named the league’s Most Valuable Player after averaging 22 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Even today, he recalls the experience and treasured the opportunity to hone some of his skills.
“That was awesome,” Anderson said of his time in Las Vegas. “I had fun playing with a group of guys that got assembled in a week and we were able to go out there and string some wins together.
“[Winning MVP] was cool. It wasn’t really a goal or anything, but I wanted to go out there and work on a few deficiencies and play well and use it to get ready for the season and that came along, so that was nice.”
Now, entering his second year, with a bit more seasoning and experience, Anderson hopes to continue to progress along the continuum from neophyte to veteran.
“I’m getting pretty acclimated,” he said. “I’ve learned great habits from these guys who have been here for so long. I’ve learned great habits not only on the court, but off the court… What to do and how to carry yourself, as well.”
In some ways, Anderson may have landed in the perfect situation. In San Antonio, he did not enter the league with the expectations of cracking into coach Gregg Popovich‘s rotation or burdened the hopes of helping to transform a lottery team or perennial loser. Instead, he has simply been able to take a back seat and learn the nuances of the NBA game-an opportunity not often afforded to talented prospects.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Gary Neal and Danny Green are amongst the few that were brought along in the Spurs system, and each has put together an impressive career.
Anderson hopes to join that bunch, even if-as some scouts had predicted-it takes some time for him to fully carve out his niche.
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Spurs Forward Kyle Anderson Slowly But Surely Finding His Way in the NBAN
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.