After missing the postseason for the first time since 1993, the Maryland men's basketball program was seemingly overdue for some positive news.
On Thursday afternoon, Justin Anderson, a 6-foot-7 junior from Montrose Christian, provided just what the Terps needed.
"I will be attending the University of Maryland," Anderson said during an appearance on Comcast SportsNet. "I felt as though I wanted to get the decision over with, not in a rush, but I felt as though it was about that time I could start creating relationships with Coach [Gary] Williams and with his assistants and start working on the game in the way that they want me to be ready for Maryland when I get there."
Anderson is Maryland's first commitment of the 2012 class. The Mustangs small forward cited location and the success of former Montrose Christian star Greivis Vasquez at Maryland as major factors in his recruitment. He said in a phone interview that the Terps have stood out ever since they started seriously recruiting him as a freshman."They just started standing out, obviously because of the location, my family being close by, and I think it’s just perfect for me and my family," Anderson said. "Coach Williams is a great coach. He approaches the game the same way I do. His energy is unbelievable."
Anderson grew up near Fredericksburg, Va., playing for Courtland High’s junior varsity team as an eighth-grader. He headed to Montrose Christian for his freshman season, immediately establishing himself as one of the most athletic prospects nationally in the 2012 class.
"We first met Justin in the eighth grade. He actually recruited us," said Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter. "Everybody in the country was recruiting him, and I didn’t know much about him. His dad called my phone and left a message. Fortunately my staff had seen him and said I better return that call, because he’s pretty good. He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached. ... He’s a developing basketball player, and Justin’s getting better every year. I think by the time he gets to the University of Maryland, he can develop into one of the best players in the ACC."
This winter Anderson averaged 14 points for the Mustangs (22-1), who earned The Washington Post’s No. 1 ranking for D.C.-area teams. Duke, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia were among the other programs involved with Anderson, who reminds Vetter of one of Maryland's all-time greats.
"It’s very similar to when we were dealing with Greivis Vasquez," Vetter said. "Maryland was going through a little difficult time, didn’t have a lot of energy on the floor. I remember talking to Coach Williams, talking about what Greivis would bring to the team – not just on talent, but with energy. [Anderson] brings such energy to the floor that’s infectious to other players."
Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s national college basketball recruiting analyst, called Anderson a “unique” talent who will be “ready to go as a freshman” from a defensive perspective. Offensively, the high-flying Anderson’s game is still developing.
“I think it starts with getting more comfortable with his jump shot and just finding a consistent offensive comfort zone," Telep said. "In the past he’s married himself to shooting 3s. I think he can get his shot off the bounce as needed. I think he could be a real good slasher, mid-range pull-up guy. I think that’s an easy role to project.”
Anderson, the No. 43 player nationally according to Rivals.com, said he is always working on his game. The four-star prospect acknowledged during his televised announcement that there is certainly room for improvement.
"Coach always tells me, ‘Justin, you can be happy, but don’t be satisfied.’ I live off of that day by day," Anderson said. "I’m never satisfied, but I am happy with my progression. I think the outside shot is coming along real well, but not where it needs to be. I think all aspects of the game – ball-handling, defense, which is the most important part of the game, I think, to me."
Anderson will join a Maryland team in 2012 that could – barring attrition – return Jordan Williams, James Padgett, Ashton Pankey and Martin Breunig in the frontcourt, Haukur Palsson, Mychal Parker and Nick Faust on the wing, and Terrell Stoglin, Pe’Shon Howard and Sterling Gibbs in the backcourt.
"It’s [a team of] guys that want to win," Anderson said. "They don’t want to be selfish with the basketball. I kind of know going in that it’s a team that’s willing to win, not just a bunch of individuals trying to get to the NBA."
With Anderson's commitment, the Terps have two additional scholarships to give in the 2012 class. He is expected to make an immediate impact in College Park. Telep said Anderson's athleticism and leaping ability set him apart from other prospects his age. At the very least, he'll be "an exceptional teammate, a great energy guy, and a piece of the puzzle at the highest level.”
“He’s a player right away,” Telep said. “I don’t think he’s a guy who’s [your primary] scorer, but he’s a really good player. I think he’s a guy who gets offensive rebounds, takes pride in his defense, runs the court and gets to the rim. You have a couple times a game where he shifts momentum your way. Athletically, he can do that. … You expect him to be a presence defensively, a really good rebounder, and a super team and energy guy.”
For Anderson, making a commitment before the end of his junior year felt like "a great decision" for him and his family that "wasn't rushed at all." He's counting the days until he suits up for the Terps.
"I can’t wait to show them how much of a Maryland player [I am], and how committed I’ll be to the program when I get there," Anderson said. "The energy I’ll bring is the same if not more than Greivis brought throughout his four years of college. Game after game, I’ll be there."