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Decade’s best No. 3: Kevin Anderson was a winner at Neumann

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a series looking back at the Top 10 boys basketball teams, coaches, games and players from the last decade.

Other players may claim better individual statistics or have earned more personal honors, but Kevin Anderson always will have a trump card he can pull out that few, if any, fellow outstanding basketball players can counter.

He never lost a regular-season or district playoff game.

Anderson graduated in 2017 and more than three years later that fact remains staggering. The greatest of teams, the best of players almost always have an off night and lose a game here or there. But not Anderson and his Neumann teammates from 2013-17. During his four electrifying years there, Anderson helped Neumann go 102-0 in both the regular season and district playoffs, adding seven state tournament wins to his resume. Anderson was a fabulous scorer, passer, defender and rebounder.

Above all else, Anderson was a winner.

“I’m very happy with the career I had in high school and I think I really made a name for myself that will always come up in the conversations of Williamsport’s greats,” Anderson said after winning the 2017 Class A State Player of the Year Award. “Despite that, I have to give it all to my teammates.”

“His career is unparalleled,” said Mike Kirby, Anderson’s coach his junior and senior years after his captain’s final game. “Nobody has had a season or a career like that. What he did for us was amazing.”

A four-year starter, the current Delaware standout produced 1,749 points as well as more than 500 rebounds and assists. He earned all-state honors three times and was a first teamer his last two years. Anderson averaged a double-double as a junior and nearly a triple-double as a senior. He began his scholastic career as a 5-foot-9 guard and graduated as a 6-3 force who could and did play every position.

The individual stats are eye-popping, but it’s what Anderson helped his teams achieve that tells the more important story. Neumann went 108-5 in Anderson’s four years, capturing four consecutive league and District 4 championships. Neumann went 30-1 during Anderson’s freshman campaign, never won fewer than 24 games in a season, reached the state quarterfinals three times and was 27-1 his final season.

Anderson was a great player, but he brought out greatness in others. That was his best quality and it became more evident each season as Anderson became a captain by his sophomore season and kept Neumann among the state’s elite programs.

“I don’t care if you score 30 points a game, if you’re not making the other guys better you’re not a great player,” Kirby said following Anderson’s 23-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist performance against eventual District 4 Class AA champion North Penn-Mansfield in 2017. “There are guys in the pros who go out and score 40 and their teams don’t win and that’s not impressive to me. If you’re making everyone better and you’re getting those numbers, that’s hard to do. That’s what separates the good players from the great and Kevin makes everyone better.”

Anderson was a valuable starter on that 30-1 state semifinalist but often deferred to the team’s many veterans, including current Indiana Pacer Alize Johnson. Neumann, however, lost a strong core from that 2014 team and Anderson blossomed into one of the state’s top players by his sophomore season, helping Neumann go 27-2 and return to the state quarterfinals.

Anderson averaged 18.9 points per game and was among team leaders in nearly every category. In a recurring theme, Anderson shined brightest during the playoffs and averaged 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists during districts as Neumann romped to a third straight title. He then added 23 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a first-round state tournament win against Pottsville Nativity, ending his season as a third team all-state selection.

“He makes everything else a lot easier because of his ability to stretch the zone,” said Paul Petcavage, Anderson’s coach his first two years after a 29-point, 10-rebound performance in the district semifinals. “His defensive ability is great and he handles the ball when we need it. It’s all there and for a sophomore that’s pretty amazing.”

The repertoire grew only deeper a year later. This was a new-look Neumann team which was replacing second team all-state selection Nasza Short and Anderson continued his and the team’s development. Anderson featured an explosive offensive arsenal. He could score at will off the dribble, post up when needed and make teams pay for backing off him by draining 3-pointers. He was the team’s go-to player and its most versatile, averaging 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.3 steals, four assists and 2.8 blocks per game as Neumann started 24-0 and won another district championship with Anderson putting together a dominant performance in the final against Cowanesque Valley. A few weeks later, Anderson became a first team all-state selection.

“Growing up I was never talked about. I was never one of the top players and this time I can get my name out there and get the team’s name out there,” Anderson said after the final. “This motivates me a lot and I can’t wait for next year.”

What a year it became. Every Neumann game was must-see action as Anderson dazzled for 28 straight games, constantly showing opponents and fans why he was going to Delaware. This was a season-long virtuoso performance with Anderson shredding defenses with his moves, talent and his mind. Anderson averaged 19 points per game and probably could have produced 30 a game had he chosen.

Instead, Anderson made his team better. Defenses swarmed Anderson and he almost always made them pay for doing so, finding his teammates whether they knew they were open or not. Anderson could dominate a game without scoring and averaged an area-decade high 9.4 assists per game while adding 4.5 steals and two blocks per game.

“Kevin Anderson is just the best player I’ve ever played with,” Neumann forward Jaiden Cioffi said. “He is making everyone around him better.”

“After the district final, the Millville coach was saying, ‘what do you do?’ when somebody asked how you try and stop him,” Kirby said. “He’s too good of a passer, he’s too good of a scorer, he’s too good a rebounder, he’s too good a defender. I’ve seen big guys before and they were posting up or shooters that could light it up, but this guy has the whole arsenal.”

He unleashed it at the most critical times, recording three of his five triple-doubles that year against district champions and four against finalists. Anderson again helped Neumann power through districts unblemished, capping a remarkable 102-game winning streak through the regular season and district playoffs.

Anderson was just as terrific in states and had Neumann a shot from reaching another Final Four. He dominated the first two games and clearly was the best player on the floor in a heartbreaking 44-43 quarterfinal loss against Faith Christian. Anderson made one last statement that day, scoring 19 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and dealing four assists as Neumann erased a 10-point deficit.

“I was very impressed with Anderson because most guys who are capable of scoring the way he is are very selfish with the basketball,” Faith Christian coach Tony DaCosta said. “The other guys can score at will, but to also be able to pass the basketball the way he does shows he has an excellent repertoire. He’s like the Russell Westbrook of high school. He’s getting points, rebounds and assists. He’s out there getting triple-doubles.”

Anderson was an easy choice as Class A Player of the Year and graduated as one of the most decorated athletes in area history.

Fans could watch high school basketball for the next 100 years and not see an athlete win as often as Anderson did.

“I’ve worked really hard throughout my life to get to where I am today,” Anderson said after winning Player of the Year. “It’s just a blessing how everything came at me like this.”

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