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Monday, January 01, 2007

Antonio Anderson Seeking to Regain Shooting Eye

Anderson seeking to regain shooting eye
Sophomore still finding ways to help Tigers win

By Dan Wolken
December 31, 2006

Antonio Anderson has never been through anything like this. He doesn't know how it started, and he doesn't know when it will end.

But now, for the first time in his University of Memphis basketball career, the sophomore guard knows what it feels like to be in a scoring slump that has lingered insidiously for weeks.

"It's miserable," Anderson said Saturday.

Of all the tiny transformations coach John Calipari hopes to inspire before Thursday's matchup with Cincinnati, there is no higher priority than getting Anderson back on track.

Though Anderson still shied away from shooting in last Thursday's 87-62 victory over Lamar, he did have eight assists and four steals with no turnovers. Calipari's message to Anderson has been that his offense will eventually come around if he can continue filling the stat sheet.

"He's doing all the other stuff," Calipari said. "He's assisting, he's stealing, he's rebounding, he's playing great defense. I told him, 'What I would do if I were you is to take all my good stuff up another notch.' Do that, and let's see if the other stuff starts coming along."

It's difficult to say when Anderson began to struggle offensively because the 6-6 sophomore isn't always a primary scoring option for 22nd-ranked Memphis.

But there has been a clear delineation in Anderson's play since Nov. 29, when he had 17 points against Arkansas State. In the first five games of the year, including the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Anderson had the look of a scorer, averaging 12.4 points and hitting huge 3-pointers in games against Oklahoma and Georgia Tech.

Since then, Anderson has averaged 7.0 points and made just 3-of-25 from beyond the 3-point line with only one double-figure scoring game (14 points against Ole Miss).

In the early part of the slump, Anderson tried to shoot himself out of it, going 13-for-42 over a four-game stretch. In the four games since then, Anderson has shot the ball just 20 times, even passing up open looks.

"I've got to do other things to help my team, and that's what I'm trying to do," Anderson said. "There's definitely going to be that point (when it clicks), and when it does, I'll have a better feeling. But for now, I'm still happy. I'm helping the team. We're winning, and even though I'm not making shots, it's not a big concern to me. When they start falling, they start falling."

Until last week, it appeared Anderson's lack of scoring was hurting some other parts of his game, but Calipari challenged him to be the best defensive player in the country and to collect points by rebounding aggressively and drawing fouls.

Though Anderson only had five shots against Lamar -- he made two layups -- he didn't force any of them, and his eight-assist performance could ultimately be the turning point in his season.

"That's Tone," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "That's what he does for us. He doesn't necessarily have to score because he'll get eight assists or four steals. He's Mr. Versatility. When he plays like that, we're a great team."

The next step is getting Anderson's jump shot going, which is why Calipari is encouraging him to step in from the 3-point line and take more mid-range jumpers if he doesn't feel comfortable shooting.

Or perhaps merely the sight of Memphis' next opponent will be enough to bring Anderson out of his slump. Last year, he scored 32 points and made 7-of-9 from the 3-point line against Cincinnati.

"He should be a double-figure scorer just based on running, rebounds, layups," Calipari said. "He'll get two or three layups a game, and with free throws, he should be in double figures easily, not even trying."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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