Anderson's slam dunks, defense boost Battlin' Bears

2014-03-06T19:00:00Z 2014-03-07T00:52:04Z Anderson's slam dunks, defense boost Battlin' BearsBy BILL BIGHAUS bbighaus@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

There are several YouTube videos out there showcasing Tyree Anderson’s monster dunks from the past.

These days, though, the flashy guard for Rocky Mountain College is more impressed with another aspect of his fast-paced, high-flying game.

“I’m most proud of my energy on the defensive end,” said the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Anderson, who is from Las Vegas. “Our defense is what’s most important in keeping us winning games.”

The truth is he is really good at causing havoc and filling highlight reels on both ends of the court.

With the postseason underway, Anderson is one of the reasons why the top-seeded Battlin’ Bears will be entertaining sixth-seeded University of Great Falls at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Fortin Center in a semifinal game of the Frontier Conference tournament.

Big moments have become a big deal for the long and athletic junior over the past few months — and he has delivered in a big way for Rocky, ranked 11th nationally with a 21-7 overall record.

“He runs the floor as well as any kid I’ve ever had in my program,” said Bill Dreikosen, who is in his 14th season as head coach of the Bears. “One of the things I think about when I think of Tyree is he’s just cat-quick.”

One cool cat, that is.

“He looks like he’s not doing anything, then all of a sudden he’s right by you,” Dreikosen said. “He has those explosive bursts, whether it’s to poke a ball away, get a rebound that we need, hit a shot or fly down the floor and get a dunk. He loves to play the game, and he’s ready to quickly seize the opportunity when it’s given.”

The 21-year-old Anderson, who transferred from Miles Community College in January 2013, is a threat to score from anywhere en route to becoming Rocky’s leading scorer at 18.5 points per game.

He had four dunks during a game against Montana Western, and even received a technical foul at UGF for hanging on to the rim following a dunk.

Anderson, who is shooting 52 percent from the field, has also displayed great range with 52 3-pointers to his credit.

“He’s an exceptional athlete at this level,” Dreikosen said. “He has a lot of different facets to his game. He’s just been a joy to have in the program.”

As for his recent heroics, Anderson came through with a clutch 3-pointer during a late 11-0 run that helped carry Rocky to a 77-66 win at Montana State Northern and its first outright Frontier regular-season crown since 1994.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m really excited. It’s been a very good year for us. Everybody has the will to win. Everybody just loves the game. We’ve worked really hard to get where we are now.”

While his quickness helps him come up with steals or tip away passes in Rocky’s man-to-man defense, the best way to sum up Anderson when he races up the court with a clear path to the basket is electrifying.

He can soar high above the rim in throwing down a one-handed dunk.

“It’s fun,” Anderson said. “It’s always good to get the crowd into it. When the crowd gets into it, it gets our team into it more. It gets us all pumped up.”

He has scored 499 points, but when the stakes have risen this season, that’s also when Anderson has been at his best as a go-to man.

“I think he really seems to lock in during crunch times, when you need him to step up,” Dreikosen said. “He seems to be calm in those tense situations. I don’t know if that’s something you can teach.

“He’s also been very humble. He doesn’t say a lot. He just kind of lets his actions speak for themselves.”

The poised Anderson averaged 21.2 points per game for a 26-7 MCC team in 2011-12 that lost in the semifinals in the Region IX tournament. In achieving NJCAA Division honorable mention All-America recognition, he played alongside current Rocky teammates Jeremy Nicolas and Sian Lane.

“We know how each other plays,” he said of their reunion this season as Rocky teammates. “We have that chemistry.”

Anderson and Lane, who also grew up in Las Vegas, played against each other as high school juniors. Those two, along with former Montana State Billings player Sam Johnson, played together on a traveling team as youngsters.

While Anderson’s productivity on the court for Rocky has been noticeable, he has also been making strides in the classroom after sitting out last season to concentrate on his studies.

“I know he is becoming more focused in the classroom,” Dreikosen said. “I always try to tell kids that all parts of life fit together. If you’re letting yourself down in one area off the court, it’s soon going to flow on to the court.

“He’s always played hard on the court, but I think he’s also grasping the importance of consistently doing quality work in the classroom.”

Anderson, who is interested in coaching in the future, agreed.

“I’ve been going to class and getting all of my work done a lot better than I have in the last couple of years,” he said. “It’s probably one of my best years going to school.”

With his dunks, drives, 3-pointers and defense, Anderson’s basketball season has been pretty good, too.

“He hasn’t arrived yet,” Dreikosen said, “but he is going in the right direction.”

So, too, are the Bears.

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