Chatted briefly with UCLA do-everything guard/forward/Swiss Army Knife Kyle Anderson today with a couple other reporters. Anderson is off to a fantastic start for the 12-2 Bruins, who host Arizona on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, averaging 15.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.71 steals. The Pac-12 rankings for the Jersey kid: 14th in scoring, 4th in steals, 6th in assist/turnover ratio, 1st in defensive rebounds, 4th in rebounds, 1st in assists. The Wildcats will have their hands full.
How you doing out there in Los Angeles?
“It’s 75 degrees out here, I’m perfect.”
Steve Alford said you had a great offseason and really took on a leadership role…
“Coach Alford and the staff, when they first got here, they did an excellent job of getting whatever we needed done. They did a great job helping us. We all developed a comfort level with them. Coach Alford was just honest with me. I trusted him right away. I’m very big on team, I love my guys here, it was a role I was excited for."
There aren’t many 6-foot-9 point guards out there; how comfortable are you handling the ball?
“That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I’ve had the ball in my hand the whole life. It brings me back to where I’ve had my recent success, high school ball, AAU ball. I worked very hard this summer for coach Alford to have the trust in me.”
You’re averaging a couple minutes more per game, but your efficiency is way up. Why?
“It all starts with taking good shots, being patient within the offense. My teammates are very unselfish, so they’re able to find me in positions where its easy shots for me. Last year, I’d maybe rush shots. I’m taking much better shot selection.”
Much like you’ve had to adjust from Ben Howland to Steve Alford, how does a coach have have to adjust to you? Is that something you look at?
“I always look at the other team’s perspective on us, who they would put on me, would they put a smaller guy on me? It’s always interesting to see on their first possession, who’s going to throw at me. I’m a big fan of the game, want to be a coach some day, so I’m interested to see who they put on a 6-9 point guard.”
At the next level, are you a point guard?
“It took a hall-of-fame coach (Bob Hurley) to put me at point guard for people to see me as a point guard. I don’t think I’m a point guard. I don’t think basketball at the next level, whatever that is, I’ll be a point guard. It’s what my coach wanted this year, I’m more than happy to do it.”
Your dad made some waves letting it be known this would be your last year at UCLA over the offseason. How did you feel about that?
“My father knows me best, he knows I play well under pressure, him saying that, it put a lot of pressure on people to say go out and have a good season. It’s something I’ve always look forward to. He put that pressure on me. Hopefully I’ll make the best of it. He said it. I don’t know.”
Mock drafts have you slated near the end of the first round, is that enough for you to go?
“I’m not really sure. I’m not sure what the mock drafts say about me. That can always change. They go up and down. I’m just looking to have the best year possible, looking to help my team go as far as we can. Looking to win, let everything take care of itself.”
Are you happier in your leadership role this year?
“I’m much happier. Guys from last year’s team would say I was still a leader, but 22-year old kids, no one’s gonna respect a freshman. The leader role was tough. I think I’m a natural born leader.”
Your season-ending loss to Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament was not your best game; did that fuel your drive this summer?
“It was a tough loss, unfortunately we loss Jordan, (Adams), so we weren’t full strength. It was a tough game – especially for me, I was thrown off. That led me to push myself this summer, to be a better teammate, a better leader.”
Is that why you returned?
“Besides, I love it here at UCLA. It’s truly a great atmosphere. I watched that New Mexico team that coach Alford had last year, so I was excited for a new staff. It’s a new clean slate. From that Minnesota game, that was pretty bad. I wasn’t even thinking about transferring, I wanted to stick it out.”
Are you having more fun in Alford’s system than Ben Howland’s?
“Yes. Last year was extremely fun for me, being on the court – I get such joy out of playing basketball – but my parents nowadays can tell how much fun I’m having this year than last year. Subconsciously I can’t really tell, but my parents tell me how much more fun I look like I’m having this year.”