Kyle Anderson's growing contributions to the UCLA Bruins' budding success is quiet the same way his game looks like it is going in slow motion. Both are deceptive in that the first is integral to the rhythm of the movement without flashing like custom chrome sprockets, while the latter is extremely effective in getting him into position without ever looking like he will actually arrive at where he needs to go.
Against Cal-Berkeley in the tip-off to the Pac-12 season, Anderson finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 32 minutes. It was a good thing, too, because Shabazz Muhammad (16 points and six rebounds) and Jordan Adams (seven points and five rebounds) had quiet nights.
Along with Travis Wear, 15 points, three rebounds, and Norman Powell who had 10 points on four of six shooting, Anderson combined with another steady, nine assist and zero turnover night from Larry Drew II, catalyzed almost everything UCLA did offensively.
Muhammad buried two dagger jump-shots late, a three pointer followed by a two; but he was not consistently pouring in points all game like he usually does. Muhammad scored an and-one late in the second half that came off a look-away snap pass from Anderson that led Muhammad right to the rim. Anderson was sharp like that with his passes and scoring all night.
The 6'9'' true freshman is coming around quickly now while at first it looked like a long shot. There were games through most of November and part of December against sometimes mediocre competition where Anderson could not get by defenders or create space for himself to work. When his dribble bogged down he went to a spin and the scoop shot that was lethal in high school was getting spiked away like a volleyball by college defenders.
Anderson's jump-shot is still mostly poor form and he is hesitant to shoot it. The improvement of that jumper will ultimately determine what level of player he becomes, but right now it has not been critical that he is hitting it or even taking it.
But Anderson played point guard for one of the best high school teams in America, and he clearly has a point guard's skills to go with panoramic court vision. Either Anderson or Drew Two can initiate the offense. This is important when you consider how well Anderson rebounds. He can snatch a board, turn and either outlet the way Kevin Love used to outlet or take off with the ball in his hands and make something happen for his teammates off the bounce.
There is legitimate concern that Anderson has still too much high school muscle, and not enough raw athleticism to rebound with the front-court players he will have to guard, but he is great with his body positioning and has extremely long arms. Love, at almost exactly the same height, was much more burly than Anderson, but also not an especially explosive athlete, and Love is one of the best rebounders anyone has ever seen.
To go with Anderson's size and skills and court vision, there is also a great head for the game. Anderson has the conductor's feel for when to speed up and slow down and always seems intensely aware of the game situation around him. There is also clearly the instinct to set-up teammates and with the players he has around him that will mean many points for the team and many assists for him. Anderson is just the right compliment to the flavors around him.
Coming from the St. Anthony's program in New Jersey he is also a serious, trained competitor and steady in that he will tilt his hardest for 40 minutes every night. Right now, Anderson is emerging as one of the key ingredients causing the chemistry of this team to bubble up like a reaction gone right.