Jerime Anderson #5 led the Bruins in 3 point FG % and his play off the bench was a key reason UCLA made it to the NCAA Tourney last season. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
As you can all guess from the first posting on the special BN way to honor players, Jerime Anderson will be the second senior to be recognized with initials: JA
There are so many ways to describe JA's career at UCLA. I detailed a bit of his journey as the team's journey the last three years. Or as is often said, the best thing about underclassman is they become upperclassman. But the fact remains, after two years of struggling in the shadows, not taking things seriously enough (he was once benched for missing a rehab session for his injured groin) and failure to commit to playing defense (Anderson was a major cause of UCLA going zone in 2009-10), last season JA emerged not just as a key sub sixth man but as a clutch leader.
It is because of his dedication and the effort and commitment he showed last year to UCLA that BN is now going to call him JA.
But first let's deal with those criticisms and discuss how JA grew as a player and person in his time at UCLA.
JA last year promised CBH to be better. And many, including here at BN and even CBH were skeptical (emphasis mine):
"Words are cheap," he [CBH] said, demanding Anderson to back it up with actions. . .
Anderson, meanwhile, has much to prove after admittedly not working as hard as he could have last offseason. Consequently, he lost his starting job along with his confidence while his aggressiveness and decision-making ability suffered.
One particularly ulcer-inducing moment occurred on the road against cross-town rival USC when Anderson got stripped while in the act of bringing the ball up the floor and calling a play. Marcus Johnson's steal and game-sealing dunk prompted a flurry of text messages to Anderson's cell phone wondering, "What is wrong with you?"
. . .
"There was no discussion of, 'We're going to take away your scholarship,' nothing like that," Anderson said. "I was glad that I was still wanted here. I just want to honor that. Slowly, I'll earn his trust back."
And Jerime has earned everyone's trust back and did it with a maturity and class that surprised many. Jerime's hard work started paying off in a key early road sweep:
"Jerime Anderson was the player of the game," coach Ben Howland said. "He came in and really did a great job for us offensively settling us down and making passes and making plays. That was Jerime's best game as a Bruin in a huge game today."
Anderson has been solid in recent games, making nine of 13 shots over his last three games, including five of seven three-pointers. The junior guard has been maligned for poor play during much of his UCLA career, but appears on the verge of a major breakthrough.
"There's always going to be haters and there's always going to be naysayers even after tonight's game, there's still probably people out there saying stuff," Anderson said. "It's part of life and it's part of basketball. It's part of this culture. So I just take it as I go and I just keep working hard and trying to get better."
It was not the first or last time someone said last year that was JA's "best game." As a matter of fact there were a number of games that could qualify as his best, all last year, road games at U$C, Washington, and Oregon and, of course a big home win against St. John's come to my mind.
JA's attitude changed on every level. On defense his sophomore year, he was regularly torched and his play against Arizona was a big reason Ben Howland committed to going zone for good for the season. However, Anderson in 2010-11 was a defensive substitute. JA was a good defensive guard and the change in attitude showed not only in his deeds but his words.
Before the first NCAA Tournament game last year JA said:
"As long as you play defense, you're going to be in every game. That's what coach preaches to us, and that's what we try to portray out there on the floor."
Anderson started to not only play like a Ben Ball Warrior he started to speak like one and others (Reeves Nelson) seemingly followed his example.
If the U$C games of 2010 were the low moments of his career, the next year he showed how far he had come against U$C. In his junior year, U$C disrespected Anderson which resulted in the following:
Steve Kerr kept saying how USC wanted Anderson to shoot outside and were going to give him the shot. Anderson was perfect (2-2 from 3 and 4-5 from the field) and took what was given him. Anderson is nowhere near a healthy Jones but he does not have to be. He is trying on defense and taking what is given him on offense.
Later in the year when many were criticizing CBH's decision to start an injured LJ over JA, there was one person who never complained: JA. JA could have lost his cool and been bitter but he was always the team player. Accepting his role as a backup PG, defensive sub, rare starter in a three guard set, playing next to Jones, etc., JA always gave a great effort, something he admited he did not always do in the past.
JA's journey proves that Bruins fan should not give up on players and Bruin players should not give up on Ben Ball brand defense or CBH.