Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"DA" Panning Out In Belgium

True story. DeMario Anderson sauntered into a restaurant on Whitney Ave., sporting a black fitted hat with "D.C." emblazoned on the front. Suddenly, he was approached by two model-slender and strikingly pretty young women.

Both were apparently fans of the then upgraded basketball team at Quinnipiac University, where in two seasons the Oxon Hill, Md. product has left a legacy that few can eclipse.

"Can I just shake your hand?" asked one of the women, her eyes blazing like mini-fireballs.

Anderson, "D.A." to the burgeoning basketball culture at Quinnipiac, responded with his hallmark ear-to-ear smile.

Taken aback, Anderson let out a few abrupt laughs. When Anderson asked why they sought his permission (he would later explain he's never had anyone ask to shake his hand before), one of the women was quick to answer.

"Because your like...famous."

A bundle of talent, a winning personality, and an uncanny ability to thrive in the face of adversity. All of these aspects helped Anderson skyrocket to small-school stardom.

Anderson is a full package. He's an intriguing blend of otherwordly athleticism, strength, and talent. He's 6-3 (maybe 6-3 and some change) with a penchant for losing defenders off the dribble and scoring in traffic.

Because of this, Anderson - who cooked opponents to the recipe of 21.7 points and 6.5 boards per game last season - is prolonging an unpredictable basketball career that began at Central Connecticut.

Anderson is averaging 12.5 points for Spotter Leuven in the Belgium professional basketball league. The 6-foot-3 guard is shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from beyond the arc. Anderson scored 22 points (9-for-14 FG) and tore down six boards during a crucial win over Antwerp last month.

Despite being utilized as the Bobcats' clear go-to-guy, a wing whom they featured nearly every game, Anderson peddled a team-high 91 assists during the 2007-08 season. He was a prolific scorer disguised as a playmaker.

It's simply what his coach expected of him.

Tom Moore, the former UConn assistant (Moore served as the associate head coach during his final two years at the Big East NBA factory), said he was sold on Anderson's upside since he opted to take the Quinnipiac job in March of 2007.

"You become mercenary and see what type of hand you'll be dealt if you do decide to take a job," explained Moore in an interview with the New Haven Register last year.

"I knew what I was getting from him. I wanted to give him some ownership of this team, that's how much I thought of him. He made this year seamless for me, and I'll always be indebted to him for that."

Putting The Bobcats On The Map

Quinnipiac, a perennial power in hockey, had been striving for some national visibility since the University shelled out a king’s ransom on the TD Banknorth Sports Center. The 3,500-seat arena dwarfs those of conference foes and would be fitting for an A-10 or MAAC school.

Moore, widely recognized for grooming a torrent of talent during his stay at UConn (see Butler, Caron or Gordon, Ben for more details) became the first coach in Anderson’s traveled five-year career (Anderson went to Global Institute in Manhattan for a year, but sat out to circumvent an NCAA rule that prevents a player from transferring schools in the same conference) to fully utilize the talent which cracked the surface.

Former coach Joe DeSantis’ system featured a motion offense that emphasized crisp ball movement and perimeter shooting. Playing in the wake of grief (Anderson’s mother, Lisa Duncan, died of cancer in 2006), Anderson struggled to get acclimated to the new system through the first ten games. Then one Saturday in December of 2006, he hung 20 points on Vermont. Following this, D.A. quickly came into his own.

Anderson averaged 22.3 points over the final six games of the regular season and his evolution as the Bobcats’ feature player had the slowly growing basketball culture buzzing. He managed to do all this despite popping off the bench as the team’s sixth man. DeSantis, who took ten seasons to reach his 100th win, opted to start three-point assailant Van Crafton instead.
Not this year. Moore swooped in and ripped the straight jacket off Anderson’s back.

The Bobcats’ offense allowed Anderson to execute the freelance mano y mano moves that makes the senior such a unique threat. It was under Moore that Anderson’s game truly flourished, as he flee from a cloud of obscurity this season.

The University got what it wanted at the near-conclusion of the season. Anderson avenged a loss at Central by winning an overtime thriller in astonishing fashion. With the score deadlocked at 73, Anderson launched a buzzer-beating, half-court prayer that splashed through the net, sending the gym into a frenzy. He then ran out of the Detrick Gymnasium, his teammates chasing after him, to celebrate the glory.

The game-winner would shoot to No.1 on SportsCenter’s “Top Ten Plays” that Feb. 28 night. It later became a finalist for Pontiac’s Game-Changing performance.

No national visibility? No problem. Give the ball to DA, and let him go to work.
Now basketball junkies around the country are voting amongst game-changing plays made by first-class schools like North Carolina, Memphis, Indiana, Stanford, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin—and now Quinnipiac.

The image may be re-constructed. Maybe DA’s eye-popper allows the school situated in the suburbs of New Haven County to be recognized for more than just the aforemetnioned political polls, prestigious Physical Therapy department, and nationally ranked hockey team.