March 9, 2010

Drive for Attention: Ford campaigns for Anderson

After the win over Nebraska, Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was asked about his star player, James Anderson, and if he gets the recognition he deserves.

His reply was one of bewilderment.

"I saw it again, a top 10 list on - well I won't say it - but he's not on it," Ford said. "The best league in the country and the player that has a great chance to be Player of the Year. They had GameDay on ESPN from Duke (Saturday). Somebody finally brought his name up, talked about him. But it's just disappointing that if people are putting out a list or talking about a list, it's disappointing that they don't know anything more about basketball that they not be allowed to do it if they don't mention his name.

"That's disappointing. From a guy who loves the game of basketball, I love basketball. And if you're not mentioning his name in 10 guys? Then you might want to cover football, really. I mean, really."

His campaigning and defense of the Junction City, Ark., native is nice to see. In a world where PC is the way to be and saying the wrong thing the first thing people worry about, Ford made no bones about what he thought of his player - and what others should think about him, too.

But Ford need not worry - the limelight is on Anderson now. The day after Ford's comments, Anderson was officially named Big 12 Player of the Year. And on Monday, Anderson was named a First Team All-American by Yahoo! Sports, calling him "the best pure scorer in the country" and that "his team attitude helped the Cowboys to a 21-9 record."

But don't think for one minute that all of this newfound attention is going to his head.

"James doesn't care, he doesn't want it," Ford said. "He wants to help the team, if that means he needs to go out and get whatever he needs to get scoring-wise, he'll get it. But if we didn't need him to score 30, he'd be content going out and getting 10 or 15. He really would. That's just him."

That may be him, but Anderson's 22.9 points per game has been a big reason why OSU is headed back to the NCAA Tournament. But a star as bright as Anderson's can sometimes wreck team chemistry - and the season as well. Ford says that hasn't been a problem on this squad, adding that his star power is actively promoted.

"We know the attention he gets," Ford said. "We make no bones about it. We tell our guys to go screen for James Anderson, go get him shots. You're fortunate because you can play off him. He gets so much attention, enjoy the opportunity to play off a great player. They all understand and I think we've got very unselfish players."

And an unselfish star. Another reason why him being such a power player hasn't messed up any chemistry on a team that, if hot from the floor, can beat any team in the nation.

"There's extremely few players with his ability and reputation and what he has accomplished that have his attitude and personality and then the person he is," Ford said. "But even being around him every day, it's just remarkable the type of young man he is. It's just too good to be true at times, it really is."

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