Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dwayne Anderson's Junior Season - Villanova Wildcat Senior Farewell

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

Having completed the
Senior Farewell series on Shane Clark and Frank Tchuisi, it's now time to look at departing senior Wildcat Dwayne Anderson... in a subsequent post, I'll look back at Anderson's senior season, as well as that of putative NBA draft choice Dante Cunningham...

Here's the previous entry on Anderson's Arrival, Freshman, and Sophomore Seasons...

Dwayne Anderson's Junior Season - 2007-08

As noted in the earlier post, it did not seem likely - in light of Anderson's scarce playing time as a sophomore - that Anderson would finish his collegiate career as a Villanova Wildcat. However, something must have changed during the warm-weather off-season of 2007.

The first sign that Anderson was out of Jay Wright's doghouse came in November. He played five minutes against both Stony Brook (scoring four points) and Wright's alma mater of Bucknell (scoring two points). That might not sound like much. But Anderson - down the stretch the previous year - had played 17 minutes - combined - in the last eight games. In five of those games, he had played just a single minute. So five minutes in each of the first two games, was a step up.

He appeared to recede once more against NC State, where he played 0+ minutes (I assume that means garbage time with less than a minute to play).

But after NC State, Wright started to play Anderson more and more. Against Penn, Anderson logged eight minutes - his highest total in 11 games, dating back to the previous season. And after the victory over the Quakers, Anderson would see double-digit minutes in all but one game - for the rest of the season. (And that single exception was against Pittsburgh, when he played nine minutes).

Essentially, beginning with the Penn game, Anderson was a significant factor in the rotation for his entire junior season. This represented a sea change from his gradual benching halfway through his sophomore season. And Anderson deserves credit for developing his game the way he did, to return to Wright's good graces.

But for Anderson, the rewards continued to multiply. On February 9, 2008, Wright gave Anderson the first start of his Villanova career, as he was in the starting lineup against Seton Hall at the Pavilion. Anderson didn't disappoint, playing a career-high 36 minutes, scoring 13 points, grabbing eight rebounds, plus three assists and three steals to make the difference in the narrow 72-70 victory.

It was far and away the best game of Anderson's career - his 36 minutes dwarfed his previous high of 24 minutes. And he would start all 13 remaining games. As the media guide put it:
And then, in February, so much changed. Junior Dwayne Anderson's insertion into the starting lineup for the Feb. 9 home game against Seton Hall helped ignite a closing run that saw VU capture seven of its final 11 games, including victories over eventual NCAA Tournament teams West Virginia and UConn...

The Wildcats were 9-5 with Anderson in the starting lineup and he averaged 9.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in those starts...
Here are some of the more noteworthy performances by Anderson during his 14 starts:
  • Posted his first career double-double against St. John's in his third start, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Scored 17 points against West Virginia, one short of his career-high of 18, set during his sophomore season against Iowa in a holiday tournament.
  • Had seven points and 10 rebounds against South Florida, marking the third time he reached double-figures on the glass.
  • Surpassed even his starting lineup debut game against Seton Hall, with another strong performance against Providence: played all 40 minutes, notching his second double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, adding four assists and four steals, and going 8-10 from the line...
In the Big East first-round tournament victory over Syracuse, Anderson scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and added four steals. In the quarterfinal loss to Georgetown, Anderson scored a dozen points, and also had seven rebounds and four steals.

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Run

After not playing at all in the NCAA tournament first-round loss to Kentucky as a sophomore, Anderson started all three of Villanova's contests. He struggled against #5 Clemson in the first round, finishing with four points on 0-2 shooting in 22 minutes, but added five rebounds. Against #13 Siena in the second round, he had eight points, three rebounds, and a pair of steals.

And in the season-ending loss to Kansas - the eventual winner - in the Sweet 16, Anderson played 30 minutes, also scoring eight points, while adding three rebounds and four steals.

As a junior, Anderson had catapulted himself from the deep end of the bench to a starting spot on a Sweet 16 Villanova Wildcats squad. It was an outstanding year, which presaged his senior season - and the Final Four run.

Go Wildcats!

Of course, check back for the latest posts in the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenures of the two final departing Wildcats - Anderson and Dante Cunninghaml; the Frank Tchuisi and Shane Clark series are now already completed...

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Anonymous said...

Dwayne Anderson is remarkable story. Not sure what put him in Jay's doghouse as sophomore or how he brought himself out of it, but Dwayne apparently refused to take Jay's advice that he might be better off elsewhere.

Great credit to the kids that he turned himself into a terrific asset to the program, in Junior year and even more as a senior leader.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Seamus-

Thanks for the comment. I concur that Anderson's story is one of the best of the Jay Wright era here.

Also, I was impressed by how candid Anderson was, during the NCAA run this season, about how he seriously considered transferring after his sophomore year, due to his lack of playing time. Something must have happened during that offseason to change the dynamic between Anderson and Wright...

I think that's true in general with transfers, that more often than not it's playing time and minutes that dictate decisions. But it's atypical for a player to state it so candidly.

The post on his senior year will be up soon...

Go Wildcats!