Derek Anderson really grasps the concept of being a role model

Former Kentucky basketball standout Derek Anderson, who played in the NBA for 11 seasons, opened some eyes at Washington Middle School when he visited Evansville on Wednesday.

Anderson is on a promotional tour for his book “Stamina” but the more important thing to him is to deliver his message to kids about staying strong and chasing dreams.

Anderson had plenty of obstacles growing up as a young teen in Louisville. His older brother ran away from home. His dad, who was having substances issues, also left. Then his mother abandoned him. He also had a half-sister stabbed to death by a friend of his father.

And if all that wasn’t enough discouragement. Anderson ended up becoming a father at 14 and taking custody of his son at 15.

“I was homeless for about three years,” said Anderson. “I was going house to house, staying different places to sleep (including in alleys, homeless shelters and occasionally a gymnasium). I was just trying to find my way.

“Then I ended up staying at a high school girlfriend’s house and she gets pregnant.”

Not giving up is why he titled his book “Stamina,” said Anderson.

“It was a really hard struggle, but I never gave in, never gave up, and that’s why I made it.”

His basketball skill made his path a little easier. He won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1996 and might have won another if not for a season-ending knee injury in 1997.

Injuries followed him throughout his NBA career, too, as he bounced around with seven teams. But in 2006, he earned another championship ring with the Miami Heat. His career ended two years later in Charlotte.

One of his greatest “hurts” was knowing that his father and mother never came to see him play in college or in the NBA. He’s not even certain they followed his career from afar.

But when Anderson became a Christian, he said he found forgiveness for the actions of his parents. He said getting his mother back in his life was what inspired him to write the book.

“I finally got her back in my life after 28 years,” said Anderson. “That was motivation enough for me to say, ‘You know what? I need to help someone else who is dealing with this (abandonment). I needed to help somebody get through it.”

How tough was it to reach out and search for his parents?

“It was tough but only because I didn’t do anything about it for years. Once I did it, it was easy. It was tough not doing it. Everyday I’d wake up and say, ‘Man, should I find them?’ But I’d always say, ‘No.’ … But something just woke up in me one day. I gave my life to God and I said I want to try. When something like that hits you, you can’t ignore the moment.

“A lot of people ignore their purpose in life, and they struggle.  I just knew I had to do something different. I wasn’t going to allow myself to live a life without at least trying (to have a relationship with his parents). If they don’t won’t to do it, then at least I knew that I had tried.”

He said both his parents finally gave him the acceptance he needed and he in turn helped make their lives easier, including sending his mother to rehab for alcohol and drug addictions.

All those issues he had to resolve are why Anderson believes at-risk students in middle schools and high schools can relate to him. And learn from him.

He says that at nearly every school he visits he leaves with the name of at least one more  student that he will follow up with on a regular basis.

“Ask anyone who knows me, I check on these kids all the time. My whole history is about keeping up with people. Of the 14 kids I’ve given scholarships, 12 have graduated.

“I do it because it’s important. You can’t just say something and leave because they’ll go back to the same situation. But if you stay on them, you can motivate them.”




Indiana announces Abell granted release to transfer

With sophomore guard Remy Abell’s decison to transfer to another school, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean has cleared space on the roster for the Hoosiers’ incoming class of six freshmen.

Abell’s decision was announced late Friday night in a news release from the IU sports information department. He joins five other departing players in seniors Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston, junior Victor Oladipo and sophomore Cody Zeller.

“Remy has been an outstanding citizen and a solid player for us the past two years,” Crean stated in the release. “He indicated to us that he would like to look to go to a program that has a different style of play and one where he can get more playing time.”

A Louisville native, Abell played in all 36 games for IU this season, averaging 4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. He appeared in 32 games as a freshman, averaging 3.0 points. During his two years, he made 22 of 48 3-pointers for a 45.8 percent shooting accuracy from behind the arc.

“Being at Indiana has been the best two years of my life,” said Abell. “I love the school, the program, the fans and I want to thank everyone for their support. The coaching staff has been great to me and I couldn’t ask to have had better teammates while I was here.

“I am going to miss everyone, but I just feel at this time a fresh start and new opportunities are what is best in following God’s plan for me .”

When Oladipo and Zeller announced their decisions to declare for the NBA draft, IU was still one scholarship player over the limit of 13.

Now the roster has just seven returning veterans in Will Sheehey, Maurice Creek, Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Peter Jurkin and Austin Etherington. The six incoming freshmen are 6-10 Luke Fischer, 6-8 Noah Vonleth, 6-6 Devin James Jr., 6-6 Collin Hartman, 6-7 Troy Williams and 6-4 Stanton Robinson. Vonleh is a McDonald’s All-American.

The Hoosiers still could end up being over the limit of 13 scholarship players if reports are true that Crean is pursuing another point guard, Jaren Sina from Gladstone, N.J. The 6-foot-1 guard was released from his national letter of intent to attend Northwestern when the Wildcats fired coach Bill Carmody.

According to reports, Sina still could choose to attend Northwestern but he’s first going to take a lot of IU, Alabama and Seton Hall.

Looking ahead to 2014

Crean is also looking to the 2014-15 freshmen class, offering a scholarship to 6-foot-9, 220-pound center Goodluck Okonoboh of Wilbraham, Mass. Okonobo is a former AAU teammate of incoming freshman Vonleh.

Okonoboh is the No. 3 ranked center in the country by and the 34th ranked player in the nation in the 2014 class.

Not measuring up

The official measurements from the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament are always of great interest to scouts from the NBA and other professional leagues.

And now we have confirmation (as if we didn’t already know) that Indiana guard Jordan Hulls is shorter than 6-foot. Hulls measured 5-10.75 inches and weighed 171 pounds (not his listed 182).

Other players of note were Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, who also measured in around 5-11 instead of 6-foot. Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley also “shrunk” an inch, measuring at 6-8 instead of 6-9.

Cody Zeller can’t wait to work in family business

Cody Zeller announced he was leaving Indiana University after just two seasons of playing basketball to work in the family business.
And to play in the NBA, of course.
Playing professional basketball has been Zeller’s dream, of course. Now it becomes his priority since that’s how he will be earning his future pizza money.
But during the off-season, the 7-foot Washington, Ind. resident will be back home as often as he can to help out with DistinXion, the family’s nonprofit organization.
Founded by older brother Luke, DistinXion operates summer camps that until now Zeller has had to keep at arm’s length because of inane NCAA rules.
“Over the past few years I haven’t been able to be part of it, even though it was my family’s company and it’s a non-profit organization.,” said Zeller of DistinXion. “Now I’ll be able to help out with that. They do Christian basketball camps. They also teach family values, a lot of things that I was raised on. It’s a unique opportunity for Luke, Tyler and I to give back to kids.”
Luke Zeller, who played at Notre Dame, was recently waived by the Phoenix Suns and isn’t currently listed on the roster of any NBA Development League teams.
Tyler Zeller, who starred at North Carolina, had been in the same hand’s-off situation as Cody until last summer. Now playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyler will be back helping Luke conduct camps with their parents.
Steve and Lorri Zeller also use the business to mentor adults and promote family values.
There are also plans for a book, apparently.

They said it: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, Irish players Tom Knight, Jerian Knight

Quotes from Notre Dame players Tom Knight and Jerian Grant and Irish head coach Mike Brey after losing to Iowa State 76-58 Friday night in a second-round NCAA tournament game.

Just what was the problem with the turnovers? What were they able to do to force you guys into so many miscues?
TOM KNIGHT: Off those turnovers, they were able to run and get easy points. We were trying to limit that, but with 14 in the first half, it’s really hard to stop them from scoring easy points when you have that many turnovers.

JERIAN GRANT: Usually, we don’t turn the ball over like that. So it was just surprising, just mental mistakes that we usually don’t make. We picked the worst time to make them.

Q. Just how difficult is it just to have some struggles again in March and particularly in this tournament
JERIAN GRANT: You know, it hurts. All season, it felt like we had a team this year that could make a deep run in March, and I really believed that. I just feel like we picked the worst day to have our worst game.
All through the year, I felt like we turned the ball over less than ten times a game. To do it 14 times in the first half is something that’s hard to come back from. It’s something we don’t normally do, is turn the ball over, and that really hurts.
TOM KNIGHT: We’re obviously disappointed. Obviously, we want to get past the first round. That’s been our goal pretty much all year. Last year we got out in the first round, and we really haven’t made it past further than that the last few years.
It really hurts we couldn’t do it for our seniors and for the rest of the guys on our team.

Q. A little bit off of the last question. The struggles in the tournament for you the last few years, how difficult is this for you to take?
BREY: I really would think it’s the next step for our program. We’ve been so consistent in the regular season, and we haven’t been able to do much here. That’s what keeps me up at night and keeps me trying to figure out how we can be better at it.
That’s what’s very extremely disappointing about tonight. Go back to the drawing board and try and figure it out. Now we’ve got to maneuver a new league next year. We’ve got to come out of a new league,
But that’s like the unfinished business for this program. It’s really well respected nationally. It had a great identity in the Big East. It will be interesting to see what it is in the ACC. We even got to the semis of the Big East four years in a row.
But this is a hump we can’t get over yet, but we’ll keep trying to figure it out.

Q. Especially for a team like you, which plays two traditional bigs, how much pressure does it put on you guys that they can put five players on the court that can make shots?
BREY: It’s very hard. It was hard to play two big guys. We tried to go small a couple times, and in hindsight maybe we should have played more that way.
They’re very, very hard to guard. They’re really good. And with Niang in the middle kind of wheeling and all those guys spreading you out, they’re kind of a nightmare matchup.
Again, I don’t want to take anything away. They’re just really good, and they’re men. They’re really men.

Q. Coach, you mentioned the turnovers. Just what was Iowa State able to do to force those turnovers?
BREY: I think I’ll give 50 percent credit to their defense, and then 50 percent is I just thought we played so fast. We played fast in the half court. We rushed things.
My guards have been so good all year with controlling tempo and making decisions, and it just wasn’t a very good night for them. When our guards aren’t in a good rhythm, as a matter of fact, we probably can’t beat anybody, and that was kind of the tone. We never really were able to recover.
But I just thought we played so excited and so fast.