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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Antonio Anderson Picks Up Tiger Offense

Anderson picks up Tiger offense
He's become team's third point guard

By Jim Masilak
January 17, 2007

Antonio Anderson isn't a point guard in the classic sense.

The University of Memphis' 6-6 sophomore is taller than most at his position, rarely brings the ball up the court or calls plays and doesn't make many flashy passes.

But as Willie Kemp and Andre Allen struggle to run the Tigers' drive-and-kick offense to coach John Calipari's specifications, it has increasingly been left to Anderson to pick up the slack.
And the assists.

"He's the third point guard. That's exactly what he is," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said of Anderson, who dished out a career-high nine assists for the No. 17-ranked Tigers in Tuesday night's 79-54 thrashing of UAB at FedExForum. "He gets everybody involved."

In his last six games, Anderson has totaled 34 assists -- two more than Allen and Kemp combined.

What's more, Anderson has turned the ball over just six times during that stretch, giving him a nearly 3-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio for the season for the Tigers (14-3, 4-0 in Conference USA).

"When he gets the ball, he likes to drive," sophomore forward Kareem Cooper said. "When he tries to drive and the defense collapses on him, he dishes to the open man. That's what coach Cal wants us to do on every offensive possession."

At the moment, no one is doing it to greater effect than Anderson.

While Anderson entered Tuesday's game against the Blazers (10-8, 2-2) averaging a somewhat disappointing 8.8 points per game, scoring is becoming less of a concern as shooters like Jeremy Hunt (14 points) and Doneal Mack (seven points) emerge.

Rather than force a shot that isn't there, Anderson prefers to find an open teammate.

"If a guy's open and I've got the ball in my hand, I'd rather pump fake and get somebody else a shot," he said. "I like to give my teammates confidence, especially the young guys, so that when we get in tough games they'll be ready to go."

Calipari says the Tigers aren't making a concerted effort to run the offense through Anderson in the halfcourt.

"We went through Robert Dozier more than him today," the coach said.

Dozier, who led the Tigers with 15 points, is a scorer. Anderson is more likely to be a conduit.

"Antonio's one of those players who, if he doesn't score, he's gonna give you five assists," Mack said. "He's kind of like our leader out there. He's like the X-factor."

After helping the Tigers hand UAB its most lopsided defeat of the season, Anderson said his emergence as the team's unofficial point guard came about almost by accident.

"I didn't envision (taking on this role). It just happened. ... As long as they're making baskets, I'll keep doing that all day," he said. "A lot of it has to do with (taking pressure off Allen and/or Kemp).

"They know they've got a second person out there to help run the offense."

Calipari likes the flexibility Anderson brings to an offense that puts a premium on ball movement.

"If you have Andre, Willie and Antonio, you have three point guards on the court," Calipari said.

-- Jim Masilak: 529-2311

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