WRITTEN BY MATT SOBER
But long before elevating his game at the Division I level, Anderson was struggling to rise from the depths of a tumultuous adolescence. With no father present and a mother who would serve time in prison for drug trafficking, his was a chaotic existence that, at one point, found him sleeping under a bridge in his hometown of Elkhart, Ind. “My senior year in high school probably was the hardest for me, when you have senior night, prom, graduation. And to not have my own parent there for those occurrences, that was when I realized that I was by myself. I got down from that,” Anderson says.
With guidance from mentors and his own sheer determination, Anderson has persevered. And with every step of the turbulent journey that brought him to Robert Morris — a journey that included stops at two junior colleges even before landing at Glen Oaks — Anderson has distanced himself from the past and inched closer to the promise of a successful future. In the classroom, the senior is on track to graduate with a degree in communication. On the basketball floor, he’s provided not just a deft scoring touch, but also toughness and leadership for coach Andy Toole’s team. “When we recruited him, we thought we were getting a really good player,” Toole says. “What I didn’t realize was the amount of character we were getting the minute he set foot on campus. He is coachable. He works extremely hard. He does everything you ask of a player. He’s had such a dramatic impact not only in the locker room, but on the individuals on our team.”
Anderson is grateful to have found a home at Robert Morris, and not simply for the opportunity to play basketball. He’s also thankful to have formed meaningful relationships with Toole and assistant coaches Michael Byrnes and Joe Gallo. “It’s been very positive,” Anderson says. “You have people here who want to help you, and I’m someone who wants to be helped. It’s like a family to me. The stability of it is amazing for me.” Toole has been particularly impressed by Anderson’s willingness to accept responsibility and grow from mistakes. “The thing that’s remarkable is that his story is up there with some of the most difficult challenges you’ve seen from anybody, but if you met him on the street, you’d never know it,” Toole says. “He never uses it as a crutch. He knows that if he does what he’s supposed to do, he can change his circumstances. It’s a credit to his character.” That very same character explains why Anderson, the Colonials’ leading returning scorer, has assumed a role as one of the team captains. “That speaks volumes,” Toole says. “He’s a guy who would do anything he could for his teammates.”
This season, Anderson and his teammates are looking to defend their Northeast Conference regular season championship and make their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since Toole became head coach. If they can get to the Big Dance, it’ll be just another triumph for Anderson to savor — not unlike that stunning 59-57 victory over Kentucky in front of a raucous sold-out crowd at the Sewell Center. “To do something most people didn’t think we were going to do, and to have everyone storm the court, it was crazy,” he says. “You usually just see that stuff on TV.”
Anderson is a talented shooter, and his 36-point game Jan. 9 against Sacred Heart is among the highest-scoring games in the team's history. He also takes pride in creating opportunities for teammates. “I love making plays for other people. I love seeing my teammates excited when they score,” he says. And while his college career will end in a few months, Anderson has no intention of giving up the game that has brought him so far. “I’d love to play overseas,” he says with typical enthusiasm. “I’ve never really been anywhere.”
Whatever the future may hold, Anderson believes in his ability to make the best of it. “There’s a point when you realize, ‘I’m not the person I used to be.’ When I finally realized that, it gave me confidence,” he says. “I told myself that if I could succeed from my childhood, I could do anything.”