Rest easy, UCLA Bruins fans— Kyle Anderson’s surgery won’t affect his freshman season.
Anderson, ESPN’s No. 5 overall recruit in 2012, required surgery on torn ligaments in his thumb in late April and spent most of this summer recovering.
Though the injury was to his non-shooting hand, there was still some genuine concern coming from UCLA fans. Anderson and fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2 overall in the class of 2012 according to ESPN), are expected to lead the Bruins back to national prominence. Fans don’t want anything to get in the way of their progress.
Luckily for the Bruins, Anderson has already proven that his thumb is, if not 100 percent, pretty dang close to it.
He looked like an absolute stud in scrimmages in China last month, particularly in a 92-63 win over the Chinese Basketball Association’s Shanghai Sharks. Anderson recorded 21 points and 11 rebounds and even dished out five assists in the win.
Playing well in an actual game setting is huge for a player coming off of an injury like Anderson is. There’s usually a little bit of tentativeness in players recovering from surgery, but Anderson looked confident and comfortable—not at all like a player hampered by a bad thumb.
When asked about his first game in a Bruins uniform (a 116-68 victory over Tsinghua University), he simply told reporters (per the team’s official website):
“It was great to finally be out on the court, especially in a different country, and to start the season off on a great note. It's going to be a long season when we get to practices in October, but it feels great to get the win tonight.”
He never even mentioned his thumb, and it appears to be a non-issue on the court. That’s a big relief for any Bruins fan worried about Anderson struggling early in the season.
The other concern brought about by Anderson’s surgery was team chemistry.
For this Bruins squad to be a championship contender, they need to be in sync—especially in light of Muhammad’s eligibility issues (Anderson is likely to be cleared according to Adam Zagoria of zagsblog.com). If Anderson was still bothered by his surgery, he would have missed out on a big opportunity to adjust to his new teammates.
But thanks to his full recovery, Anderson did get a chance to play with his new teammates, and the results are already starting to show. The Bruins looked significantly better as their time in China progressed, playing their best ball in the final game of the trip.
Said junior guard Tyler Lamb after the game (per the team’s official website):
“I think we know a little bit more of how we can play together and what we are capable of when we play a whole team effort on defense. We have multiple weapons - we can go inside and we have really good guard play. I think we are just trying to become a complete team. These three games helped us to see where we stand. I think we can go into practice for the real season and we'll be all right.”
The time spent together was huge for the Bruins, particularly for freshmen like Anderson, who have to get comfortable with all new teammates.
Obviously, if Anderson reinjures his thumb then things will change.
But as it stands now, his surgery shouldn't hamper his play next season. He has already shown that it hasn't affected his significant basketball ability and it also hasn’t prevented him from beginning to build on-court chemistry with his teammates.
UCLA fans expect big things from Anderson and he won't disappoint them. Surgery or not, Anderson is set to make a big impact at UCLA in his freshman year.