Avery Anderson III threw his body toward the basket and batted the basketball away from the hoop.
A few seconds earlier, he had lost possession of the ball, but with one swift defensive play, he kept his opponent from capitalizing on his turnover.
Anderson, a freshman point guard, showed grit and hustle in the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team’s 69-51 victory against the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday afternoon in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
At 6 feet, 2 inches, Anderson is OSU’s shortest scholarship player. That couldn’t stop him from executing a leaping block that made 6-foot-10 post Yor Anei proud.
“I thought it was spectacular,” Anei said.
With 12:40 left, Brandon McKissic stole the ball from Anderson, who didn’t let the slip-up frazzle him. Instead, he sprinted into the paint and followed Marvin Nesbitt Jr. to the basket. When Nesbitt Jr. jumped to shoot a layup, Anderson sprung up beside him and swatted the ball, setting up a sequence that resulted in a bucket for Kalib Boone.
“I see (Anderson) do it a lot in practice, too,” Anei said. “So I knew that when he was chasing (Nesbitt) down that he was gonna go get it.”
Anderson, who sat beside Anei in the postgame press conference, followed with a statement that made Anei’s face light up with a grin.
“I’m trying to get like Yor,” Anderson said.
Through 19 minutes and five seconds of playing, Anderson had four points, three rebounds and two assists, but his full impact didn’t show up on the stat sheet. Coach Mike Boynton said his favorite play from Anderson was when he lunged out of bounds to try to grab a loose ball as the game neared its end.
“I’m really, really proud of Avery,” Boynton said. “Obviously, he came in with some hype as a flashy, athletic scorer type guard. That’s not necessarily what our team needs from him yet. We need him to be a scrappy defender, somebody that takes pride in helping others get shots.”
Anderson wasn’t the only point guard who enlivened Gallagher-Iba Arena with his tenacious plays. Nesbitt Jr. was denied of another opportunity when Isaac Likekele, the Cowboys’ sophomore starting point guard, blocked his shot with 5:55 left.
Likekele also swiped the ball from McKissic and sprinted into the paint for a fast break dunk to give OSU (2-0) a 62-46 lead with about four minutes on the clock.
Anderson said he has grown from practicing against Likekele, a 6-foot-4 vocal leader who assumed his starting position as a freshman. Although Anderson and Likekele have different builds and strengths, they share a focus on aggressive defense.
“They bring so (many) different dynamics to our defensive schemes because they, first of all, take a lot of pride in it,” Boynton said. “They want to be known as defensive stoppers.”
Despite Anderson’s early progress, he isn’t immune to the usual freshman mistakes.
“Avery’s turnover there midway through the second half wasn’t really a play to make in transition,” Boynton said. “He tried to create one where you just sometimes gotta make the safe, more conservative play, but that’s to be expected.”
As Anderson adjusts to the fast-paced college game, he recognizes his role and embraces it.
“I’m the energy guy,” Anderson said. “I do everything. Play on the defensive of the ball, offensive side of the ball, whatever they need me to do to get the W, that’s what I am.”