Growing up in Kalamazoo, MI, Doug Anderson didn’t have access to the most technologically advanced training methods. He made due with what he had. Namely, he walked and he jumped.
“When I was young, all I did was walk, like long distances with a backpack full of books,” Anderson said. “It could be summertime, and I’d still fill it with books or extra shoes or clothes (for weight). And most of the time, I’d just sit there trying to jump. I got my first dunk when I was like 5-8.”
That dunk came just before he started the eighth grade. Since that first one, dunking has become routine for Anderson, now a sophomore standout for Mott Community College, the top ranked JuCo in Division II. Routine, but never boring.
Anderson does things athletically that only a handful of basketball players at any level in the country are able to pull off. The Vince Carter elbow dunk? Throwing the ball off of the wall supporting the basket, catching and finishing? Anderson has done those. Catching a full-court alley-oop and finishing? Done it. Shattering a backboard? Yeah, he did that too. There are very few highlight reel aerial movesAnderson is not capable of finishing.
Anderson typically declines to have his vertical leap measured claiming that it would undersell how high he actually jumps – the adrenaline of a game causes him to jump higher, he’s said. He doesn’t pattern his dunks after any player in particular, although one underrated NBA high flyer is among his favorites to watch.
“I watch JR Smith,” he said. “Everyone sleeps on him and he can jump. As soon as you see he’s going past you, he just dunks on you. He has some nice dunks up his sleeve.”
As a standout at Kalamazoo Central High School, Anderson’s dunks have long made him a “YouTube star” as Mott coach and NJCAA Hall of Famer Steve Schmidt calls him. And as a coach who boasts three national championships won with teams that always featured high caliber athletes, Schmidt was certainly drawn to Anderson because of his ability to make the impossible look easy.
“I heard the buzz about Doug and saw him as a senior during the Michigan high school state tournament,” Schmidt said. “I went down to Lansing Eastern fieldhouse and everyone was talking about Doug Anderson. And off the opening tip, the (Kalamazoo Central) guard takes two dribbles and throws it from about halfcourt and Doug just goes up and slams it, and from that point on, Doug had me.”
More buzz in an already buzzing program
Prior to Anderson’s arrival at Mott, the program already boasted one of the best fanbases in all of JuCo basketball. Mott had won three national titles in less than a decade. The program had produced three National Players of the Year (Jeremie Simmons, Kevin Tiggs and Jay Youngblood) as well as dozens of All-Americans and players who went on to play Division I college basketball and professionally overseas. Located in basketball-loving Flint, MI, Mott’s success had long been a point of pride in the community.
But Anderson’s arrival gave a popular program even more appeal. Last season, Mott had to add another set of bleachers into Steve Schmidt Gymnasium, the team’s home arena which is named after the coach, to accommodate the growing number of fans coming out to see Anderson and Mott’s aerial show. By the end of this season, that additional set of bleachers was not even enough as many crowds featured standing room only seating.
“I don’t know if a junior college has as loyal a following as we have, even prior to Doug being here,” Schmidt said. “We’ve won three national championships and are playing for a fourth, but we’ve never had the buzz or excitement that we’ve had these last two years with Doug. It might be one or two athletic plays that LeBron James could make or just a handful of people in America could make that people see on a regular basis at Mott games.”
Anderson and his teammates feed off the energy created by his dunks. Mott, ranked second in the country in defense, often sees an Anderson dunk lead to increased defensive pressure, turnovers and an eight- or 10-point run.
“When we played St. Clair (in the regional semi-final), I caught an oop over one of their players who was from Flint (T’aron Boose), and it just made me feel like Blake Griffin, everyone went nuts,” Anderson said. “They called timeout and everything. That was one of my favorite ones.”
More than just dunks
Like most high school stars, Anderson has grand aspirations for his basketball career. To achieve those, he needed to find a JuCo that would help him add some finesse to compliment his raw athleticism. During the recruiting process, that was the pitch Schmidt used to convince Anderson Mott was the place for him rather than the dozens of other schools recruiting him.
“I sold him and his family on the fact that everyone knows you’re on YouTube, everyone knows you can dunk as well as anybody, my hope is to make you a complete basketball player,” Schmidt said. “I told him, Every player who has played at Mott is a better player when they’re done then when they came.”
Things weren’t always easy. Last season, Anderson was one of the top freshmen in Michigan and led Mott in scoring. Mott won a state title and finished 26-4. They headed into their regional as the favorites to win it and earn a berth in the national tournament, but a poor performance ended in an upset at the hands of Henry Ford Community College.
Schmidt used the disappointing ending to impart to Anderson and the rest of his returning players the importance of committing to his core values at Mott: academics, work ethic and defense.
“His freshman year, I battled Doug a little because he didn’t practice that hard,” Schmidt said. “He had the athleticism we all knew, and he had a good freshman year, but he would get nicked up and complain about injuries and not work that hard. And I got frustrated at times, but realized it was a growth process and hung in there with him.”
Anderson took it as a challenge. He’s become one of the team’s best practice players and exhibited more toughness this season while adding to his all-around game.
“He’s not been injured, he’s not missed a game, he’s not missed a practice,” Schmidt said. “He’s one of my hardest workers in practice. That is what people don’t see. They don’t see what he’s done from his freshman year to now.”
Anderson’s teammate at Kalamazoo Central and at Mott, defensive stopper TJ Cameron, has seen growth in Anderson’s game since they played together in high school.
“When he got here, Doug couldn’t do a lot of the things he’s doing now,” Cameron said. “He’s developed a good shot, he’s dribbling and putting it on the floor more and he’s just become more aware of the game.”
Anderson’s ability to add to his game, particularly the fact that he’s reliably knocked down open jump shots and extended his range to the three-point line (he shot 33 percent from three this season) has made it harder for defenses to guard him.
“When I first came in, my mindset was just dunk, dunk, dunk,” Anderson said. “At Mott, I’ve developed a more different game. I can shoot and now when they play me to shoot it, I can drive in and dunk it.”
Cameron, who Anderson said always knows exactly where to put the ball for him on lobs, says that whether the defense knows a dunk is coming or not, there is little that can be done to stop it because so few players can leap like Anderson can.
“Even though they know what he wants to do, if you throw it up there, can’t nobody jump up there to get it,” Cameron said. “The chemistry with him is pretty good. I know when he’s gonna jump, playing with him for four years now. Even if they (the other team) do know, they’re still gonna be in a poster. You just throw it up there where only he can get it.”
Schmidt is even more pleased with Anderson’s progress as a student than an athlete.
“People said Doug couldn’t graduate, he’s a lazy student,” Schmidt said. “Well, Doug’s gonna graduate. He’s gonna be a success. He has great family. I don’t know where he’ll end up after Mott, but I do know whoever gets him is going to be very fortunate and I think their program’s interest is going to quadruple, just like ours has.”
Making up for last year
Not making the national tournament last season despite the regular-season success has been a motivating factor for the coaching staff and players. Anderson says part of the reason he chose Mott was the fact that the Bears are a yearly threat to contend for a national title.
“Last year we fell short, this year, everyone’s got their head on straight,” Anderson said.
This year’s Mott team finished 30-2 and won state and regional championships on its way to the national tournament. Although those in attendance at the Division II nationals in Danville, IL, starting March 15 will likely see some highlight reel dunks during the tournament, Mott’s hallmark is defense, led by Cameron, the Defensive Player of the Year in Michigan.
“I try to make it miserable out there for them (opposing wings),” Cameron said. “I want to try and make them think. I want them to do what they don’t do the best. If you can shoot, I’m gonna try to have you drive and my help defense is gonna be there. I’m a good defender, but it’s a team thing. I know where my help’s at. I just don’t want you to score, that’s the mentality.”
Mott, the top seed in Division II, opens up against Central Community College in Nebraska, which finished 16-17 on the season. This is the seventh trip to nationals for Schmidt, who loves the on-the-fly game-planning required for unfamiliar teams from other states.
“I personally like that challenge,” he said. “We do what we do. We work hard and we defend. You can miss shots, but as long as you defend, you’re gonna be in games. We’re very deep. I think it’s to our advantage to play four games in a week. In 2001, my first time going to the national tournament, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Now I feel like I understand how to get our guys ready. Whether we win or not, we’re gonna compete, we’re gonna represent Mott Community College and Flint and the state of Michigan like champions.”