By John Helsley
As James Anderson announced he was leaving OSU for the NBA on Monday, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Did Cowboys fans truly appreciate what they had in this guy?”
Late in the Big 12 schedule, I wrote a story trying to peg Anderson’s place in history at OSU. It’s never easy crossing generations or positions for comparisons. So slotting Anderson — not even a full three years into his career — among the likes of Bob Kurland, Byron Houston, Big Country and others was a chore.
And yet, I couldn’t help but feel Anderson belonged in the discussion of being among OSU’s all-time top five.
Anderson’s magic came while working with less talented supporting cast than most of the Cowboys’ legends. Often, he was asked to carry the Cowboys, and did, leading the Big 12 in scoring on his way to unanimous conference Player of the Year honors. And if you somehow missed the hype, it was a stout conference in 2009-10.
Anderson did more than just score. He rebounded. Defended. Assisted.
Anderson’s kind, the unselfish and unassuming superstar, is seldom seen these days. And that goes on the floor and off, which makes him even more special to all those in Stillwater who stood amazed at his good-guy act.
Too good to be true?
Here’s what Travis Ford had to say:
“Just a joy to be around, just a tremendous person. He’s been a perfect example of what we want this basketball program to be about, not just as a player, but a person.”
Teammate Nick Sidorakis:
“You learn a good about of lessons, on and off the court. He’s a good human being, good person. All-around good qualities. Him being my roommate for three years, even in high school camps, I’m really going to miss him.
“He stands for whatever’s good.”
And Obi Muonelo:
“He’s one of those guys, you can give him your car keys and your house keys and leave for two weeks, and everything would be just the same. He’s very dependable. That’s his greatest quality as a person, his dependability.”
As the season played out, often to small crowds in the beginning and rarely to the throngs that used to make Gallagher-Iba great, there was a sense that OSU fans were missing out on something special. Eventually, the media caught up, with Anderson finally gaining national notice and All-American status.
Hopefully, Cowboys fans caught up, too.