Anderson having instant impact at Delaware

The gap separating Class A high school basketball from Division I college basketball seems as large as the Atlantic Ocean.

So, as thoroughly and as consistently as St. John Neumann’s Kevin Anderson dominated opponents last year one was left wondering what kind of college impact he would make. Some might have had their doubts.

Delaware assistant coach Bill Phillips did not. While watching Neumann play at the Catholic Community Center last winter, a sports reporter asked Phillips how much he expected Anderson to play as a freshman during the 2017-18 season. Without hesitating, Phillips said, ‘he would start for us right now.’

Phillips was not joking. This was a coach supremely confident that Delaware struck gold when it signed Anderson.

And he was right. Anderson is off to a fantastic start at Delaware and was named the CAA Conference Rookie of the Week for a second consecutive week to close out the 2017 calendar year. Anderson did immediately become a starter and he is a major reason why the Blue Hens (6-6) have made major strides and already are within a victory of matching last year’s win total.

“I’m having a lot of fun playing against top-notch competition every night,” Anderson said. “I’m pleased but I don’t really pay attention to that. I’m just doing what I have do to get a W.”

Anderson knows all about winning. He put together one of the more remarkable high school careers, helping Neumann win all 88 regular-season games he played in. Anderson was a three-time all-state selection, helped Neumann win four consecutive district championships, seven state playoff games and earned the 2017 Class A Player of the Year Award.

One reason Anderson became so successful was because he was never satisfied. Anderson always has had a drive that surpasses his outstanding talent. That combination made him one of the state’s best high school players at any level and now is helping him make a significant impression at the Division I level.

Anderson, a 6-foot-5 guard, who played every position in high school, is averaging 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, both CAA freshmen-bests. Able to beat a defender in virtually every manner, Anderson also ranks seventh in the CAA with a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio, 10th with 2.9 assists and 10th in minutes with 33.2. It is a major shift playing against some of the country’s best players in some of the biggest venues but that never has fazed Anderson.

Just ask Notre Dame.

Against the country’s then-No. 9 ranked team, Anderson dazzled. The man who helped Neumann win 107 games in four years put on a show, scoring 23 points, dealing seven assists and commiting no turnovers. Notre Dame won, but Anderson drove home how good he is and how good he could yet become.

“It was really exciting to play against a team like Notre Dame and it just showed I can play with the best,” Anderson said. “I think it showed a lot about the type of player I am.”

Anderson provided a glimpse of things to come in an early-season game against Bradley and has not slowed down since. He convinced himself he belonged in Division I that night and now he is proving it against every opponent he plays.

Above all the awards and statistics Anderson produced at Neumann, his best trait was making his teammates better. He is showing that quality again at Delaware where the Blue Hens have matched last year’s conference win total and appear headed for bigger and better things.

So does Anderson. He has watched former teammate Alize Johnson become an NBA Draft prospect at Missouri State. Anderson also has watched Williamsport graduate Jahad Thomas become an elite player at UMass-Lowell and Williamsport graduate Stanley Scott stand out early at Oakland. The Williamsport pipeline is strong and Anderson is helping it run even smoother.

“After my game against Bradley I knew I could make a serious impact for the team,” Anderson said. “It makes me very proud to know that Williamsport is getting a good name for sports.”

SURGING SULLIVAN

If Sullivan County makes a deep postseason run later this season, look back at the Hughesville Christmas Tournament performance it put together as the turning point. The Griffins (6-3) hit their stride there, rallying from a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to beat 4A Jersey Shore, 47-41, a night before downing defending District 4 Class AAA champion Hughesville, 52-43, to capture the championship. Tournament MVP John Saxe and fellow senior Alex Baumunk have consistently delivered strong performances throughout the season, but what stood out last week was how well the young first-time starters and/or contributors played.

Sophomore guard Sam Carpenter played his best basketball, hitting the clutch go-ahead 3-pointer late against Jersey Shore, scoring a career-high 16 points against Hughesville and draining seven 3-pointers in two nights. Dave Pardoe provided excellent interior defense and rebounding while hitting the game-clinching free throws and freshman Jalen Thomas swarmed on defense.

Sullivan had lost two earlier games in overtime, but excelled in the game’s tightest moments last week. Coach Glenn Vaughan continues getting the most out of his players and Sullivan is starting to look like a team that again could be a District 4 Class A title contender.

“Ultimately, the goal is to be at our best in February and March,” Vaughan said following the Jersey Shore win. “There’s so many close games at that time of year, so us learning how to win games like this, especially after the overtime losses we had, was huge for us. Hopefully this leads into us playing the last 3-4 minutes of a close game with a lot of confidence.”

PUTBACKS

Jersey Shore (4-3) bounced back from the Sullivan loss in convincing fashion, routing Freedom Village, 66-40 and finishing third. Nate Ewing scored 16 points and earned all-tournament honors while Junior Armstrong recorded his third double-double and Tanner Lorson grabbed seven rebounds while adding seven assists …Warrior Run (6-3) is looking good entering the new year and captured the Milton Tournament championship after routing both South Williamsport and Northwest by 41 combined points. Five players scored in double figures against South and Warrior Run dominated the final three quarters against Northwest. Milton took third, winning its first game in the consolation round when it defeated South, 62-39. Tony Manzano, Eric Counsil and Quaylin Rice all reached double figures… St. John Neumann erased an 11-point second-quarter deficit Friday in State College, rallying past St. Joseph’s, 59-56. Noah Persun and Jaiden Cioffi both had 15 points and Persun added eight rebounds while freshman David Hill scored 10 points. If Neumann (3-3) continues getting strong production inside, it could really take off … Lewisburg senior Nate Liscum continues scoring in bunches and delivered a game-high 30 points in a 76-69 loss at Mifflin County. Liscum is averaging 31 points over his last three games and has topped 30 in consecutive contests. Keep an eye on his freshman brother Ben who scored a season-high 17 points in that game.

Dr. Masse’s Top 5 Team Rankings

1. Loyalsock (6-2)

The Lancers lost both games at the State College Tournament, dropping a heartbreaker to Germantown Academy before losing the consolation game to Owen J Roberts. Still, playing in a tournament like that against terrific competition should make Loyalsock better as the season progresses. Connor Watkins earned all-tournament honors and Gerald Ross scored 30 points over two nights. Ross, Watkins, Anthony Pastore and Mitch Klingerman all are averaging in double figures.

2. Wellsboro (7-1)

The Green Hornets have won six straight and defeated St. John Neumann for the first time since 1983 last Wednesday, going on the road and winning, 50-41. Wellsboro is a well-rounded team that can do damage inside and outside. Three players are averaging in double figures and the defense has not allowed more than 41 points in a game during the win streak. Wellsboro is seeking its second straight league title and is undefeated in league play. Forward Brandyn Tuttle has recorded five double-doubles in eight games and point guard Quinn Henry had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists against Neumann.

3. Montoursville (4-1)

Its first three wins featured Montoursville building double-digit leads then holding off fourth-quarter rallies and making big plays and shots in the final minutes. The Warriors made things easier on themselves last Friday, gradually extending their lead from the second quarter on in a 50-35 win against Central Columbia. It was another positive development for a team that has three players averaging in double figures. The Warriors also played their best defense this season and capped a four-game home stand in impressive fashion. Montoursville hits the road for the first time since its season opener Wednesday when it plays at Southern Columbia.

4. Muncy (7-0)

The dilemma that is defending Muncy again revealed itself in the North Penn-Liberty Tournament final against Williamson. Matt Coyner delivered a double-double inside, Nate Paisley broke down the defense and Muncy hit 11 3-pointers. The Indians can produce inside and outside and four players are averaging more than 12 points per game. That includes Noah Rymsza who scored a career-high 25 points in the 77-61 championship win as Muncy continued its best start in more than 20 years. Moyer has solidified the starting lineup and has shined bright in his first year starting. The junior can play either guard for forward and scored 35 points in the two tournament wins. The Indians host undefeated Millville Tuesday in a game that could be entertaining from start to finish.

5. Williamsport (5-4)

Winning their Christmas Tournament was impressive, but the Millionaires know they have to get a lot better after Hazleton defeated it, 68-47 Saturday in a rematch of last year’s District 2-4 Class AAAAAA championship. Williamsport lost to Hazleton during the regular season last year and now it knows the level it has to get to by late February. This is a young team that is making nice strides, though, and Williamsport twice rallied from halftime deficits to beat Prep Charter and Glasgow, Delaware at its tournament. Darryl Wilson is one of the area’s top shooters and drained seven 3-pointers in those games while earning MVP honors. Keith Jason shined against Prep Charter on both ends of the court and both Eric Smith and D’Angelo Strachon are emerging as threats inside.

Players of the Week

John Saxe, Sullivan County and Gage Anzulavich, Warrior Run

Saxe was the Hughesville Tournament MVP after scoring 39 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the two wins. Saxe also is an excellent passer and dealt six assists against Jersey Shore. Saxe scored his 1,000th career point last year, but it his all-around game that makes him especially dangerous and he has at least five assists in eight different games. Anzulavich is the engine powering Warrior Run during its strong start and recorded two more double-doubles while helping the Defenders capture the Milton Tournament championship. Anzulavich leads the area in double-doubles with seven and produced 29 points and 25 rebounds in the two convincing victories.

Game of the Week

Sullivan County at St. John Neumann

This has become one of the area’s best small-school rivalries over the past seven seasons with the teams playing in three District 4 Class A championships and in last year’s semifinals. Neumann has had the upperhand since 2013, but Sullivan is hoping to change that Friday. Both teams are title contenders again and this also is a big Mid-Penn Conference game with both teams also battling Millville and Muncy for league supremacy.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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