When Kyle Anderson walked down the stairs and into the basement of the Lincoln School on Tuesday morning, his face lit up.
As a student at the middle school in Fairview, N.J., Anderson had honed his basketball skills on the small basement court underneath the Bergen County school. Now it was being renamed in his honor as Kyle Anderson Court.
“It probably takes me back to the beginning, the beginning stages of my career, being a student here, going through everyday life with these teachers and with my classmates and now to see 20 years later, that I’m able to be celebrated and commemorated and just lead the way for the kids after me, that means a lot to me,” Anderson, who is about to enter his 10th NBA season and his second with the Minnesota Timberwolves, told NJ Advance Media.
Anderson, 29, is nicknamed “SlowMo” because of his ability to play the game at a slower tempo that suits his pace and allows him to create for others. He was the No. 30 pick of the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 after two seasons at UCLA, which he helped lead to the Sweet 16 that year. He split his high school career between Paterson Catholic and St. Anthony’s, going 65-0 under Bob Hurley at the latter and leading the program to back-to-back Tournament of Champions titles. Hurley, the Naismith Hall of Fame coach who was in attendance Tuesday with his wife Chris, called him a “modern-day Magic Johnson” at the time.
Both Paterson Catholic and St. Anthony’s are now closed due to financial reasons, so the Lincoln School holds added meaning for Anderson.
“Oh for sure, definitely,” he said. “I don’t have any high school or anything like that. It’s special, it’s a special deal.”
All the students in the district sat in the sun on a warm day to greet and cheer for Anderson. One fan held a sign that read, “Welcome home, Kyle Anderson.”
“Today is a big day for Fairview, a hero is back in town,” said John Hogan, the Bergen County Clerk. “Kyle Anderson is back in Fairview.”
Anderson gives out turkeys to members of the community near the school each Thanksgiving, and also held a Celebrate Life day in 2022, a three-day basketball tournament and half-day clinic open to children .
The 6-foot-9 Anderson averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season for the Timberwolves, who lost to the LeBron James and the Lakers in the Play-In Tournament. He holds career averages of 7.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Anderson is one of three New Jersey natives on the Wolves, along with former St. Joe’s-Metuchen star Karl-Anthony Towns and former Roselle Catholic forward Naz Reid. Towns also happens to have the practice court at Kean University named after him.
“Yeah, it’s awesome, really,” Anderson said of his Jersey teammates. “I can relate to those guys, I’ve watched them growing up. But I really love our team in general, like our whole team. I’m really excited. We got a good young group of guys. I think we’re a little battle-tested, too, so this will be a special year for us.”
One of his teammates, guard Anthony Edwards, just competed with USA Basketball for the team that lost back-to-back games to Germany and Canada and finished fourth at the FIBA World Cup.
“It’s tough, those teams are really good,” Anderson said. “Some people think [American] NBA players are just going to wipe the floor with them, but that’s not the case. The talent is really good in Europe, those guys have been playing together for a long time, the Germany team, the Serbian team, so it’s not easy for the USA to go in there and win.”
As for his own goals heading into his free-agent season, Anderson said, “Just have a good year, have fun every day. I’m getting into year 10 so I just wanna make sure I enjoy this. It could be over like this, so this is the later half of my career so I just want to enjoy it.”
In terms of his impending free agency, he said, “I don’t really focus on that stuff, honestly. I just want to get better every day, play as well as I can and go from there. Everything will handle itself.”
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