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January 14, 2014

Anderson's scoring touch took time to develop

Karvel Anderson knows he isn't Kobe Bryant.

But that doesn't mean the Robert Morris senior will stop trying to be like the future Hall of Famer every time he steps on the court.

"Everyone knows Kobe is my favorite. It's just his footwork offensively," Anderson said. "You can't be Kobe Bryant, but the way he's fundamental and his body control when he shoots is something I liked."

Some of the shots Anderson hit against Sacred Heart and Bryant this past weekend might have evoked some of the same feelings that Kobe's opponents have felt over the course of his NBA career. Even when Sacred Heart and Bryant had Anderson guarded, he found a way to make plays. Anderson scored 36 points against Sacred Heart and 32 against Bryant. Both were Robert Morris wins, and Anderson became the first Colonial to score 30 points in back-to-back games since Gene Nabors in the 2000 NEC Tournament.

"You don't see it very often, so I think it's a great accomplishment," head coach Andrew Toole said. "The fashion that he did it in is even more incredible."

Anderson used a variety of shots, from his customary deadliness behind the 3-point arc to fadeaway jumpers to drives to the basket. They were shots reminiscent of Kobe's arsenal, but they were also shots that Anderson has been developing since he was a sophomore in high school.

"When you see him play, you knew he had some diversity to his scoring," Toole said. "He's a better athlete than people would probably know with his quickness and finishing ability."

Even when Robert Morris was recruiting him out of Glen Oaks Community College, Anderson had the reputation of being a sharp-shooter. His high 3-point percentage is part of what attracted Robert Morris to him, as they were in need of someone who could be a threat on the perimeter to take some of the heat off of Coron Williams. Anderson embraced his ability to hit the outside shot, but he always knew he could do more.

"That's always been my type of game. Everybody always labeled me as a shooter," Anderson said. "My mindset is I'm a scorer who can shoot the ball."

That's what he was in high school, when he lit up South Bend (Indiana) Clay High School for 46 points on his senior night. That set an Elkhart Memorial school record, and it was the most emphatic case that the work he had been doing was paying off. There were times in high school when Anderson wouldn't even pick up a basketball in during shooting drills, focusing solely on his footwork, developing an ability to pivot on either foot and create body control that allowed him to get a clean shot off in contact.

His experience at Elkhart Memorial and then later at Glen Oaks encouraged him to further develop his shot fake, which he used with incredible effectiveness against Sacred Heart and Bryant.

"Getting people to believe that you're actually going to shoot the ball is something you have to work on," Anderson said. "You have to have the same motion like you're going to shoot the ball."

Even after scoring 46 in high school and 54 against Schoolcraft College in junior college, Anderson's 68-point weekend means more to him. It's not just because he did at the Division I level, a dream he held on to for years despite the numerous obstacles he had to clear. But it's also because of his injury history. Anderson had his third wrist surgery in two years over the summer to further fix problems that occurred when he first broke it prior to his sophomore year at Glen Oaks.

"Last year, every time I shot or dribbled, my hand would swell up," Anderson said. "I don't have anything now. I can fall on the ground and catch myself."

The return of his wrist strength after multiple surgeries, and to use that strength to shoot so accurately, still stuns his teammates. Anderson recalled walk-on Shaire Tolson-Ford asking him how he had any movement left after the three surgeries. Anderson's not sure, but he's thankful the muscle memory is still there.

"There's not a lot of wrist motion. It's just different," Anderson said. "After three surgeries, I don't know how I can still do it."

With no pain, the biggest challenge for Anderson has to do with his aggressiveness. Toole and the rest of the coaching staff have tried to get him to be more selfish while still creating plays for his teammates. That unselfishness, not Anderson's physical talent, is why Toole thinks this past weekend was special.

"I wasn't always sure that he would have the personality to score back-to-back 30 point games," Toole said. "There are times where, as great of a shooter and scorer as he is, he worries about his teammates getting shots, even though sometimes those things might be lower percentage shots than he might get."

It's a good problem to have. Anderson and the coaches have talked about him being consistently aggressive, about not having halves where he contributes little only to erupt for 17 or 20 points in the other. But Anderson still believes in getting his teammates involved, much like he did on dump offs to Jeremiah Worthem and Aaron Tate against Bryant. Anderson is willing to be aggressive, but he wants the best shot for the team, and if that means dishing off to Lucky Jones, Anthony Myers-Pate or someone else because of extra defensive attention, he's comfortable with that.

"They can't take just me away and still win the game," Anderson said. "They have to worry about Lucky, Ant and all those other guys too."

Of course, Anderson still wants the ball. He may not come off as the typical scorer who is always going to hunt his shot, but when crunch time comes, he wants the ball. The Bryant game should be proof of that. With the game tied at 67, less than a minute left, and Robert Morris coming out of a timeout, Anderson had a message for his team.

"I told my teammates before that in the timeout that if (the shot clock) got under 10 seconds, I wasn't passing the ball. I didn't mean it in a selfish type of manner," Anderson said. "I wanted that shot and I wanted to be the person to do that."

He was. Robert Morris' set play didn't go as planned, and Anderson had the ball on the wing. A double-team came, but the pressure opened up a seam for him to lean through and get off an off-balance shot for the go-ahead score and the eventual win.

Despite the added pressure of being a primary scorer, despite the added defensive attention, Anderson's mix of aggressiveness and unselfishness paid off for RMU.

"He's handled it well. I thought he did a great job in the beginning of the Bryant game of getting other people involved," Toole said. "If he's making the right decisions, I think we're going to be okay."

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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