By Ryan Goodman
April 16, 2015
A look of disbelief spread across the faces of Virginia Basketball fans this past Monday at about 5 pm, as The University officially announced that the star of their program and fan favorite, Justin Anderson, had decided to leave school a year early and enter his name into the 2015 NBA Draft. Anderson, a 6’6” Junior small forward who had an incredible breakout season, has been deemed a potential first-round pick by multiple NBA executives. If Anderson ends up being selected in the first round, he would be the first Wahoo underclassman since Roger Mason in 2002 to be chosen in the first 30 picks. In his latest mock draft, ESPN Insider Chad Ford predicts that Anderson will go number 26 overall, to the San Antonio Spurs.
“I’m just so thankful for my three-year ride here at U.Va,” Anderson said to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Tuesday during a press conference. “The opportunity presented itself for me to take my talent to the next level and become a professional athlete. I think I’m ready to take that step.”
Interpretation: I am grateful for my time in Charlottesville, BUT, due to my absurdly high field goal/three point percentages and the fact that there is no way I shoot as well as I have throughout all of next season, my draft stock will never be higher than it is right now. So, the opportunity to turn pro was just too good to pass up considering the circumstances.
There’s no doubt that Anderson had one of the more remarkable jumps (in terms of improvement) across the entire country this past season, while also massively raising his draft stock (which was basically nonexistent last season), when he was putting up 8 points, 3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game and shooting 29% from three.
This year, his numbers shot up across the board, with nightly averages of 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists,and 45% from three. However, a broken pinky derailed Anderson’s potential All-American season, leaving him planted on the bench in street clothes for an eight game stretch, including the entire ACC tournament.
After the injury, Anderson was a shell of his early-season self, scoring 0 points and grabbing 4 total rebounds in his first two games back. He eventually bounced back to score 15 and 8 in his last two games, but there’s little doubt the drop off in production led to Anderson’s decision to bolt from town a year early.
With Anderson, UVa was in contention with Kentucky to be the preseason #1 team in the country next season and an early title favorite. Without him, the Cavaliers are a fringe top ten team and face some questions on the offensive end. How will Tony Bennett and Co. fill the gaping offensive hole that Anderson leaves? As a team that already struggled on that end of the floor last season, this is going to be worth monitoring closely.