A group of youngsters sat in the middle of the court at Cliffside Park’s No. 6 school outdoor court last Saturday and listened intently to the words of a National Basketball Association player.
Kyle Anderson, the two-time Hudson Reporter Player of the Year during his days at St. Anthony and a McDonald’s High School All-American, now spends his days with the San Antonio Spurs, having just completed his second season in the NBA.
Anderson was hosting his second annual Celebrate Life Day and was conducting a clinic for the youngsters with his father, former Ferris head coach Kyle Anderson, Sr.
After the pair was finished giving their lessons, it was time for the NBA standout to answer questions from the kids.
Some of the questions were a little off the wall, like “What kind of a car do you drive?” and “Do you have a girlfriend?”
But others were extremely thought provoking.
“How important was going to school for you?” one youngster asked.
Kyle Anderson’s ears perked up.
“School is very important,” Anderson said. “Not everyone can grow up to play in the NBA. You have to be good in school and become great people off the court.”
Another asked Anderson who was a tougher coach: Coach Bob Hurley with St. Anthony or Coach Gregg Popovich with the Spurs.
Anderson danced around that one after acknowledging that it was a great question.
“Both have been very tough on me,” Anderson said. “I honestly never looked at Coach Hurley or Coach Pop being hard on me. I know once they stop yelling at me, I’m in trouble. But I think I can handle it.”
Another asked Anderson, who is also known by the nickname of “Slo Mo” by the way he plays and has even trademarked “Slo Mo” with a logo, who his role model was. Without missing a beat, Anderson gave credit to retiring teammate Tim Duncan.
Needless to say, Anderson had these kids so captivated that when the time comes for him to retire – hopefully not any time real soon – Anderson would be a nice fit in the classroom, much like his father still is in the Jersey City school system.
“I remember being in their position, watching NBA players on TV and hoping to actually interact with them,” Anderson said. “I remember talking to J.R. Smith when I was a kid, telling him that I wanted to be in the NBA. Meeting him meant so much to me. I thank him a lot.”
Just last week, Anderson attended Smith’s wedding.
“Definitely, one of the things I wanted to do with my life was to give back to the community,” Anderson said. “I was glad that one of the kids asked me about school. I know how important school is to these kids.”
Anderson hosted the Celebrate Life Day in honor of his childhood friend Paul Kim, who took his own life a few years ago. Anderson is hopeful that his day brings about suicide prevention, which is where the funds raised Saturday went to.
Other than the clinic, there was a high school basketball tournament and a tourney for adult males.
“It means a ton for me,” Anderson said. “These are my childhood friends here helping me, my family. We had a great turnout of kids, thanks to their parents for bringing them by. We don’t want to lose the message of the day. We’re here to celebrate Paul.”
The kids were certainly appreciative of Anderson’s efforts.
“I liked that he said you needed good grades to make it,” said 13-year-old Tyler Sims of Jersey City. “I met only one other [NBA] player and that was [former St. Anthony, Seton Hall and Los Angeles Clippers guard] Terry Dehere, so this was great.”
Tahaad Pettiford is an 11-year-old from Secaucus who will be a sixth grader at Huber Street School this fall.
“I was glad I was invited to come,” Pettiford said. “I was excited when I learned that Kyle was going to be here. It’s not easy to make a life in basketball. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. He definitely inspired me.”
Julius Dominguez is a 10-year-old from Union City.
“I learned more about having the right attitude,” Dominguez said. “I should work on that and cooperating with my team. It was a great day.”
The elder Anderson was extremely proud of his son and his accomplishments.
“I’m proud of what he’s always been but what he’s turned into as well,” Anderson, Sr. said. “He’s always been a good hearted person who looked after others and thought of others. He’s a grown man now. He’s 22. He can say, ‘No’ to me if he wants. But if I ask him for something, he’ll do it. It was about as close to perfect of a day that we could have.”
Avid readers of The Hudson Reporter were first introduced to Anderson 10 years ago this weekend, when the North Bergen native was just beginning his skyrocketing basketball career.
In the Aug. 8, 2006 editions, it was noted that Anderson was already being considered among the top 12-year-old players in the county, that there was a service called the Clark Francis Hoop Scoop that actually ranked pre-teen players. At that time, Francis had the 5-foot-11 Anderson as the No. 5 point guard in the country among 12-year-olds – as strange as that sounds. He was receiving college scholarship offers before he even entered grammar school.
The feature written in 2006 talked how the 12-year-old Anderson was playing regularly in North Hudson Braddock Park, going up against guys many years older than the kid known at the time affectionately as “Little Kyle.’’ Guys with tattoos, full facial hair, chiseled muscles readily accepted “Little Kyle” as one of their own.
“They never ask my age,” Anderson said at the time. “They have no idea I’m 12. It’s not like I’m wearing it on my sleeve or anything.”
Now, he’s 22, playing in the NBA and holding his own clinics to give back to kids. It’s truly remarkable how time flies.