By Joyce Erekson
When English High tapped Antonio Anderson as its new boys basketball coach, the powers that be knew they were getting a guy with an impressive playing resume.
The former Lynn Tech star played for coach John Calipari on the University of Memphis team that lost to Kansas in the NCAA Division 1 Final in 2008. He went on to play professionally for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010. Although that’s more than enough to land a coaching job, Anderson’s resume got a little loftier with the news last week that he is being inducted into the Memphis Athletics Hall of Fame in February.
“It’s amazing,” Anderson said. “To get this honor. I think it shows that people respected what I did on the floor, defending and being a leader. It’s awesome. It’s a blessing.”
Anderson averaged 8.5 points per game along with four rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. It was his defense, however, that kept him working.
No one knows that better than his former Lynn Tech coach Marvin Avery. Anderson was a big part of a talented Tech team that, under Avery, won the Division 3 State Championship in 2002 with a victory over Frontier.
“Antonio wasn’t a really big scorer, but he was an overall team player. He always covered the other team’s best offensive player,” Avery said. “Everyone can score, but you’ve got to be able to stop someone too. If you couldn’t play defense, you weren’t playing for Tech.”
Anderson has fond memories of his days as a Tech Tiger.
“Back then was fun,” Anderson said. “I played with some great guys. I was just a contributor. We had a great group of seniors, some juniors as all. We all came off the bench and made the plays.”
Anderson said he had hoped to make it into the Memphis Hall of Fame one day, but he was surprised it happened so quickly. He graduated from Memphis in 2009, the same year he took home the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year award.
“To happen that fast is a blessing,” Anderson said. “I think my defense, my unselfishness and being a leader did it (made him successful).
Anderson is now 32 and the father of an 11-year-old son who is already showing signs of being a talented basketball player. He said the message he hopes to impart to his son and to his players at English High is to put academics first.
“I want a program built on academics. You can be successful in academics and on the court,” he said.
Avery plans to be in Memphis when his former player is honored. The long-time Tech coach said it’s very rewarding to see his players recognized and it’s especially rewarding to see them become head coaches.
“Antonio worked really hard. He listened to me on and off the court,” Avery said. “The sky was the limit for him. He had an outstanding career.”