Iowa State wins on the road
Randy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a bad weekend for an official visit.
Luke Anderson, a Florida kid who grew up playing hoops under sunshine, got his first real taste of Ames, Iowa, the weekend of Sept. 1 — when a lightning storm canceled Iowa State football’s season-opener.
The torrential downpour made that Saturday a tame one on campus.
“It was calm — and I still committed,” laughed Anderson, who committed to the Cyclones right after his official. “That just shows that I must have really liked it.”
Like the weekend, Anderson’s commitment was also quiet. It came on a Sunday, during a news cycle dominated by the canceled game.
But, behind the scenes, Anderson’s recruitment had its share of noise.
New schools were still trying to enter the mix in the days leading up to his visit to Ames. Texas Tech and TCU contacted his AAU coach, and the 6-foot-8 forward/wing heard others were in the picture, too.
Those schools had a simple message: If you show interest in us, we might offer.
Anderson said he entered September considering two schools: Iowa State and Georgia. The new interest didn’t change that.
“When I was visiting Iowa State,” the Lakeland High product told the Register, “I was thinking, ‘They’ve been on me for the longest. If these schools even do offer me right now, it’s not going to be the same.'”
The three-star, top-200 prospect was used to getting pressure from schools — whether it was pressure to show interest, or even to commit. That’s what happens when you surge from a mid-major to a high-major prospect in a matter of months.
Iowa State got the ball rolling as his first high-major offer in August before his junior year. After that summer, Anderson switched AAU teams and joined Team Knight — which played him as a wing, not a center, where he had been playing with Each 1 Teach 1.
That’s when his stock jumped.
See, plenty of 6-8 kids can flash athleticism down low. But fewer can stretch to the wing and produce as a 3, 4 or 5 at the high school level, knocking down 3-pointers and handling the ball.
“He’s that guy who everybody’s looking for,” said Lakeland head coach Dwayne Johnson, who started running Anderson through point guard drills when he was a sophomore. “That ‘tweener — that guy who could be a 4 man, but also could play the 3.”
Ole Miss offered in October. Xavier joined the party in December. Georgia Tech offered in March, and Florida State and Georgia followed suit in April.
Xavier was first with the “full-court press,” said Luke’s dad, Eddie Anderson. Actor Bill Murray even stopped by while Anderson was in then-head coach Chris Mack’s office during a February visit. (Murray’s son, Luke Murray, is one of Mack’s assistant coaches.)
“I think that was staged,” Eddie said with a chuckle. “He was funnier than hell. It was a trip. Even Luke looked at me and was like, ‘Dad, is that the guy from “Caddyshack’?”
Eddie, who’s an assistant coach at NAIA Southeastern in Lakeland, said Mack wanted Anderson to commit during that visit. But the future Cyclone told Mack he wanted to visit Iowa State before making any decision.
While all the other schools started showing interest or offering Anderson, Iowa State kept a consistent — and large — presence in his recruitment. Small led the way. He’d talk to Anderson about his fit in the Cyclones’ offense. He compared him to Georges Niang, and would show him videos of how they utilized Niang.
“Coach Small got in there and did a really good job early before other schools jumped in,” Iowa State assistant coach Daniyal Robinson told the Register in December. “Local schools had been (showing interest), but Small did a really good job cultivating a relationship.”
After Mack left for Louisville in March, Georgia was next to push for a commitment. Anderson was one of Tom Crean’s first recruiting stops when he got the job.
Georgia was appealing because it’s close to home. Anderson’s family and friends would have a 6-hour drive to watch him, rather than a flight up to Iowa.
Still, he found himself comparing everything to Iowa State. That connection started way back in November 2016, when Small invited Anderson to watch the Cyclones play Gonzaga in the Advocare Invitational title game.
“They just play smart, play hard and play together,” Anderson said. “That’s the kind of basketball I want to play. It’s just how I’ve been raised.”
Added Eddie: “He never waned on that. Even when he went on an unofficial in June to Georgia, and Crean was hammering then, and so was (Georgia Tech head coach) Josh Pastner. It’s a lot of pressure.”
Eddie said his son felt the love, without the pressure, from the Cyclones.
“Prohm looked at Luke (during his official visit) and said, ‘You know what Luke? We love you here. It’s a special place. You’d fit in great. The fans would love you. We love everything about you. But I want you here only if you want to be here,'” the elder Anderson said. “And that meant a lot to Luke.”
Anderson committed to Iowa State directly following his visit. He texted Prohm he was committing while Small drove he and his dad to the airport.
Prohm responded with a photo of Anderson wearing an Iowa State jersey and the word “committed” in the background. Luke showed the photo to his dad while Small’s car passed the Polk County sign on I-35 South.
“I damn near had a heart attack. I was crying like a little stuck pig,” Eddie said. “Coach Small had a little tear in his eyes. We were right near that exit near Ankeny, and I guess there’s an exit that says ‘Polk’ (on it). And Polk is the county we live in.
“I’m pretty superstitious, and I think that’s a pretty damn good sign.”
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
Source: Des Moines Register