As the Husky men’s basketball team gets ready for its regular-season finale against Utah, senior Mike Anderson reflects on a life that included the deaths of two brothers and a basketball career that included a Florida prep school and three junior colleges.
It has taken Mike Anderson more than a year to tell his story. And even now, he’s holding back.
Begrudgingly, he was pulled into a conversation about himself last year during his first season with the Washington men’s basketball team. At the time, he wasn’t ready to get into it all.
He touched on a hardscrabble past in Hartford, Conn., that he described as a “war zone.”
Utah @ Washington,
1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
He glossed over a vagabond basketball journey that included a Florida prep school and three junior colleges.
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And the initial conversation stalled when the topic turned to his family.
“Without my family and especially my mother, I wouldn’t be here right now, to be honest with you,” Anderson said. “She’s probably the strongest person I’ve ever seen in my life. Honestly. Just the stuff she’s been through. And I’m not even going to speak on that, but she’s been through a lot since Day 1.”
Whenever Anderson talks about his mother, Fay, he smiles as if remembering a favorite memory.
Then the conversation quickly turned somber after what seemed like an innocuous question.
Who helped you get to Washington?
“My two brothers that passed away,” Anderson said. “When my first brother died, I was 11. That’s when I first started playing ball. That’s the reason why I wear No. 11 — because I was 11 when he passed away. Menny. He got shot.”
When asked why his brother got shot, Anderson said: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
When asked about his other brother, Anderson said: “His name was Nick. I was 16 (when he died). Same way. He got shot. I can’t speak on that too. I can’t.”
A few tears flowed. Anderson squirmed in his seat. He’s too nice and polite to walk away, but he had mentally checked out of the interview. And after a few more minutes it was over.
“I’m not ready to get into all of that,” he said before leaving.
Fast-forward 14 months, and Anderson opened up a little bit more about his family, which now includes an 11-month-old daughter.
Anderson is one of two senior scholarship players who will be honored Saturday during a Senior Day ceremony before the Huskies (15-14, 4-13 Pac-12) play No. 13 Utah (23-6, 13-4) at Alaska Airlines Arena. Shawn Kemp Jr., who will also be honored, is doubtful to play due to a strained right calf.
Admittedly, Anderson is nervous.
In addition to playing his last game at Alaska Airlines Arena, he’ll play for the first time in front of his daughter, Mya Michelle, who flew from Hartford with his mother. It’s also Fay’s first trip to Seattle.
“For her to come and watch me play, that means a lot to me,” Anderson said. “And having my daughter watch me play too, that’s something that’s just crazy.”
Now that his college career is coming to a close, Anderson allows himself to reflect every so often on how it all came together and how it all nearly didn’t happen.
“Sometimes I do think about it, but not regretting whatever happened because stuff happens,” he said. “It’s made me more mature. I had fun. It’s been a challenge for me. I’ll take this down the road later to other players.”
Anderson was an all-league player in 2009 at Weaver High in Hartford. He attended prep school at Taag Academy in Tampa, Fla., to get his SAT scores up to the Division I qualifying level.
However, he went to Western Iowa Community College and redshirted before transferring to Lincoln Trail College in Illinois. Finally, he landed at Moberly Community College in Missouri where he averaged 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore.
Anderson declined offers to South Florida, San Francisco and Central Michigan and picked Washington.
He won admiration from Washington coaches for his no-nonsense, selfless approach. Here was a 6-foot-4 guard forced to play last season in the post against players who were bigger, taller and stronger because injuries depleted the depth along the front line.
Anderson played in every game and started 18 while averaging 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
This season, Anderson moved to his more natural position on the wing, where he has averaged 8.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.
It’s been a disappointing season for the Huskies, but Anderson’s story promises a storybook ending.
He’s three classes short of earning a degree in American Ethnic Studies this summer and plans to play professional basketball overseas in the fall.
“That’s a very big accomplishment,” Anderson said about a college degree. “Not just for me but for my family and my mom.”
When asked if he still thinks of his brothers Menny and Nick, Anderson said: “All the time.”
“It’s motivation for me,” he added. “I can’t forget about them. I take them with me wherever I go.”