Derek Anderson is in rarified air. Consider this: He won an NCAA championship (at Kentucky, in 1996), he won an NBA championship (with Miami, in 2006), he was a first-round draft pick, he played more than 10 years in the NBA, and, for his career, averaged double figures.
Folks, that’s one hell of a resume.
But you may forget where it started.
Yes, although Anderson won a national title at Kentucky – “It was a great team. We had every position filled with athleticism and experience,” he said – he actually began his collegiate career at Ohio State in 1992.
“Ohio State was the best two years of my life – to this day,” the 40-year-old Anderson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It gave me a chance to develop as a person. The people were great, the fan support was great, the city was great – I still love Columbus and Ohio State. As a fan base, they were great. They were always respectful. I loved that place. The only reason I left is when I tore my ACL up, they were supposedly illegally recruiting Damon Flint, who wound up going to Cincinnati (and Ohio State was going to be on probation for two years).”
Anderson, who was already going to miss a year rehabbing his knee, decided to transfer.
“Once I was given the opportunity to leave, I went straight to Kentucky,” the Louisville native said. “I didn’t want to go to Louisville. I knew how they played. They didn’t play hard. (Denny) Crum was in his later age. UCLA asked me to come play, but I just felt like Kentucky was a better fit.”
Anderson played for Rick Pitino, who had a simple philosophy: If you play hard on defense, you’ll get to play offense. Anderson played. In fact, he played with Tony Delk and Antoine Walker, among other future NBA players.
“I decided to go there, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Anderson said. “I got the opportunity to play with All-Stars and (experience) the biggest fan nation besides Alabama football that you could ever be a part of.”
Pitino, of course, left Kentucky in 1997 and has coached Louisville since 2001.
“Coach Pitino’s a good friend of mine,” Anderson said. “I don’t look at it as him going to the University of Louisville – anymore. It hurt my heart when he did it, but I accepted it. I loved him as a friend, a mentor. So I’m happy he’s (had) success. He deserves it.”
Anderson, who played for the Cavs, Clippers, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Rockets, Heat and Bobcats, said college basketball has changed a great deal since he played in the mid-90s – mainly because of the one-and-done rule, which he does not like.
“I just think it’s different as an era,” he said. “Coach Cal gets these young guys, and all these young guys want to go to the NBA. None of them want to go and be better and get their education, get their degrees, get relationships. That’s the only thing I don’t like about the one-and-dones. They don’t become better people. I’m not saying they’re bad people, but you need to develop as a person before you give an 18-, 19-year old millions of dollars. Give them a chance to develop. That’s the only thing that I miss. Cal’s teaching them how to become professionals. He’s teaching them how to work together and play together. You tip your hat off to him. He’s a great guy.”
Anderson feels eliminating the one-and-done rule would help the college game and the NBA game. While the NBA still has a lot of superstars, the depth of the league isn’t quite what it was in the 1990s and 2000s.
“These bad general managers are drafting (players) because they can dunk, but they can’t even spell their name on a check,” Anderson said. “It’s the sickest thing you’ve ever seen. I’m hoping they change that rule soon so we can get better players (in the NBA).”
Anderson also feels that the NBA changed for the worse after the lockout in 1998-1999.
“You started to see all these general managers lose their mind,” he said. “How does Michael Jordan not finish for Chicago? How do you keep trading Shaquille O’Neal? People (ask me) how did I play for (so many) different teams. How do you trade all these superstars? Why didn’t Gary Payton finish in Seattle? He wound up going to the Lakers and then to Miami. Karl Malone was like the last person to ever play for his own team. Why was Tracy McGrady keep getting traded? (Why was) Vince Carter keep getting traded – when they were in their prime? Why would you not keep him in Toronto? That made no sense. But these general managers are so terrible that all they care about is money. They treat us like it was a shopping spree. It just made the league so bad.”