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The Cavaliers freshman, who had two of ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day Thursday, originally committed to Maryland.
Virginia freshman guard Justin Anderson (23) dunks for two of his career-high 16 points against Boston College on Saturday.
Virginia guard Justin Anderson lays on the hard wood after taking a hard foul from Georgia Tech center Daniel Miller (right walking away) on Sunday in Atlanta. Georgia Tech ended Virginia's winning streak with a 66-60 victory.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Never mind the sling-shot dunks, the wrap-around passes or the alley oops.
What defensive-minded Virginia coach Tony Bennett wanted Tuesday was a player who could guard any position on the floor.
That’s one reason he moved 6-foot-6, 226-pound freshman Justin Anderson into the starting lineup for the Cavaliers’ basketball game with Clemson.
All Anderson did was wind up in two spots on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day.
One came on a blind, over-the-head pass that led to one of Akil Mitchell’s four dunks. Another was on an alley-oop pass from Jontel Evans that Anderson took at waist level and dunked over his head.
Oh, yes, Anderson also drew the initial defensive assignment on Clemson’s 6-9, 225-pound Milton Jennings, who had racked up 21 points and 11 rebounds in the Tigers’ 59-44 victory over UVa at Clemson.
Jennings was 1 for 7 from the field and scored two points Tuesday night.
Who knows what kind of reception Anderson will get today, when the Cavaliers visit Maryland, the school to which he originally committed in 2011? But Anderson has shown he’s not one to hide from the spotlight.
“He’s been fighting for a spot, trying to get in the starting lineup,” UVa scoring leader Joe Harris said. “He brings energy whenever he comes in, but having him out there from the start, that helps.”
Anderson said he didn’t know he would start until moments before Tuesday’s game.
“Coach [Bennett] said, ‘OK, let’s go with you guys who are starting,’” Anderson said, “and, actually, I stepped off and they had to tell me to get on the court.
“The starting position; it really doesn’t really matter. But it was something, when the opportunity was presented, that I was going to work toward.”
Anderson, whose only previous start had come in the season opener, hit six of nine shots from the field and finished with 14 points in 24 minutes.
“He played with great confidence [and] good pace,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “He’s a big, strong kid who can play a couple of positions. He’s obviously going to be a terrific player.”
The Cavaliers (16-6, 6-3 ACC) were without 6-11 freshman Mike Tobey, who had been diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier in the week, but Tobey had not been starting.
Anderson took the place of fellow freshman Evan Nolte, who had replaced injured sophomore Darion Atkins in the starting lineup. Nolte had exhibited a propensity for getting in early foul trouble and experienced more of the same against Clemson.
Nolte fouled out in 22 minutes — only the third disqualification for UVa this season — but not before he had connected on three of four 3-point attempts.
Another freshman, Taylor Barnette, also went 3 for 4 on 3-pointers off the bench as the Cavaliers got 34 points from their four Tobey-less freshmen. After missing its first nine 3-pointers Tuesday night, UVa finished 10 of 24 from beyond the arc.
Anderson had one of the 3-pointers Tuesday and has gone 5 for 10 on the long balls after a 4-for-24 start. He also has the best assist-turnover ratio on the team, 48-22.
Bennett said he was more impressed with Anderson’s pass to Mitchell that was No. 9 on ESPN’s top plays than he was the Anderson dunk that was No. 2.
“I don’t think it was showboating; I really didn’t,” Bennett said. “He tried to go between his legs in the first half, they knocked it away and I told him, ‘That’s not part of what we’re trying to do.’ And, he understood that.
“He’s a passionate guy and everybody has different personalities and he stays true to that. I always talk about being continuous and efficient and, when he does that, his energy is so good for us.
“That’s really important. It gets the crowd going, but I think it’s contagious for [the rest of] the guys. I’m sure the crowd will be welcoming this next game.”
Anderson was committed to Maryland only briefly in 2011, re-opening his recruiting when then-Terps coach Gary Williams announced his retirement.
Anderson, whose family lives in Montross in Virginia’s Northern Neck, spent four years at Montrose Christian in Md., located minutes from Maryland’s campus.
“My teammates are getting on me already but I have no clue what to expect,” Anderson said. “I’m in my own little world out here. I can’t hear. I cannot hear. If they say something …
“Nah, I’m not going to give them any ideas.”
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