The MVP of the Bruins so far this season has been Kyle Anderson. There really should not be an argument. When you look at the ten game win streak, the biggest difference from before and after was Kyle's shooting. And when UCLA was beating Oregon in the first half last Saturday, Kyle was spectacular, with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in that half. For over five minutes in that first half, Kyle was the point guard and the Bruins were beautiful to watch as he doled out four of his six assists and UCLA sprinted ahead. It was during that half, I decided to write this post.
But I am not unbiased. I must admit I have something of a "man crush" on Anderson. When I was watching Shabazz dominate high school all-star games, I was always more interested in Kyle. I had seen man-child like Shabazz dominate those sorts of games before but never a player like Kyle Anderson.
While most are quite logically focusing on Tony Parker coming back after the season, I would trade the other freshman for Anderson. For while he does not rank in the great Bruins in his brief UCLA career; he may be the most unique ever. Regardless, he is one of my favorite players to watch and I am not going to let a coach on his way out ruin it.
Put it this way, UCLA fans can argue endless who was the more valuable player Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Bill Walton? Who was the greatest shooter Gail Goodrich or Reggie Miller? Who was the most dominant forward Ed O'Bannon or Sidney Wicks? Who was the quickest player Tyus Edny or Lucius Allen? Even who was the most underachieving because of his coach Baron Davis or Russell Westbrook? But in all the years, who do you compare Kyle Anderson to?
You can't compare him to anyone because he is:
- A player who regularly makes the spectacular play but it is a pass. I mean each game there is a pass by Kyle that brings out the "oohs and ahs" from fans.
- A player who is the top two for his team in almost all statistically categories (rebounds, assists, steals, blocks) except shooting.
- A player who outweighs the team's starting center but is its backup point guard and probably should be the starter.
- A player with great size but would not be the best athlete most days in the Wooden Center. Kyle may be the slowest Bruin on scholarship since Mike Lanier
But let's turn to the critics who say he is not that good. First let's talk about the main knock against him, he can't shoot. Well there is a big asterisk on that knock. Let's look at the recent stats in the last eleven games when the Bruins have been 10-1. In the last 11 games:
- Kyle has been 45-84 or 54% shooting. He started 19-58 or 33%.
- 3-9 from three or 33%. He started 1-10 or 10%.
- And most impressively 43-49 or 88% from the free throw line. He started 13-28 or 46%.
The fact of the matter is Kyle has been a good shooter after a rough start. The rough start is at least partially to blame on Howland, for trying to make Kyle into a wing. It is also on learning the college game. When you look at it, Kyle has had to learn to play every position but the five this season. He has been a wing, power forward and point guard. I mean Kyle is really good but that is a lot to ask.
The next criticism is he is not a good defender. Well, first he has stepped up his defensive rebounding because that is what this team needs. This team has problems on the Boards but can you imagine how much worse it would be without Kyle? But he is also the clutch player, uniquely on defense. From the second game against UCI on, Kyle has regularly come up with the clutch defense play. For example, it was his defense that helped win the Texas game that started the streak. Let's take this from the Texas game:
With Texas leading by six as the clock approached the two-minute mark, freshman point guard Javan Felix had the ball stolen from him by Kyle Anderson.
. . .
Then Longhorn guard Sheldon McClellan (12 points) had a driving shot blocked by the 6-foot-9 Anderson, and UCLA turned that into a three-point play by Adams that tied the game at 61 with 1:15 left. Adams scored after retrieving a missed shot by teammate Larry Drew II.
. . .
Anderson then stole the ball from Felix again, leading to a UCLA free throw and a one-point lead with 47 seconds left.
. . .
Anderson blocked a forced shot by Felix 16 seconds later. Anderson finished what he started with a layup, and now Texas faced a three-point deficit and had 22 seconds to tie the game.
I am not sure anyone else this year has even made a big play on D with the game on the line. While Shabazz, Jordan, Travis Wear and even Larry Drew II have all made some big shots, only Kyle has stepped up with the stop.
But the stats only tell a small part of the story. From national (Sports Illustrated) to local (Orange County Register) media, Kyle has been recognized as the "glue guy" for the Bruins and one of the leading ‘glue guys" in the nation.
And even if Kyle is not one of the captains, he is the leader. It was Kyle, who organized the "breakfast club" which helped Jordan Adams (and Tony Parker) lose weight which made Adams a much quicker player and helped make him more than just a jump shooter. When Shabazz committed to UCLA, the first person Ben Howland thanked was Kyle Anderson for helping recruit Shabazz. Kyle even helped Howland coach once when he mistakenly called a man play against a zone. Kyle is the team leader.
That is not to say Kyle is anything close to perfect. He turns the ball over sometimes needlessly. Some of his missed shots are just ugly. On Defense, he looks like a lost freshman at times and he has been overpowered. He has had problem occasionally with pressure from behind.
But here is the bottom line, like his shooting, he is constantly improving. Kyle is a winner. And when Howland is fired, the number priority of the next coach has to be finding a way to keep Kyle. At least that is what I think it should be. But I am just a biased fan who really likes watching this very unique player. And I would love to do so with a coach that made him point and turned him loose.