Ryan Anderson recalled a surreal moment in this venue 11 years ago when he was hit with another.
He was a standout at Oak Ridge High School then, a 6-foot-10 forward whose shooting touch and toughness helped power the Trojans past Mater Dei of Santa Ana for the CIF State Division II championship at then-Arco Arena.
Anderson can point out exactly where he made shots, where the dog-pile celebration took place.
After warming up with a dozen or so three-point shots for the New Orleans Pelicans before Wednesday night’s game against the Kings, Anderson took few moments to reflect on his basketball life.
While Anderson was discussing that 2005 title team, Steve Scott wedged his way into the interview to Anderson’s surprise. Scott was Anderson’s coach at Oak Ridge. They remain close.
“That memory sticks with me,” Anderson, 27, said of Oak Ridge-Mater Dei, “and speaking of winning state championships ... did you notice the timing? We were just talking about that.”
Said Scott: “It was sure fun. Look at you now.”
“One of the best memories I’ve ever had,” Anderson continued, “was running onto the floor, jumping onto this coach (to celebrate). Wow. I’m an old man now. I was so young then.”
Scott no longer coaches at Oak Ridge. He keeps close tabs on his son, Bryce, a left-handed combo guard for Lafayette, which reached the NCAA Tournament last season. And he keeps an eye on Anderson, The Bee’s Player of the Decade for the 2000s who played two seasons at Cal, was a first-round pick (21st overall) of the Nets in 2008 and is enjoying his best NBA season, averaging 16.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.
One of the best memories I’ve ever had was running onto the floor, jumping onto this coach (to celebrate). Wow. I’m an old man now. I was so young then.
Former Oak Ridge star Ryan Anderson on winning a state championship at then-Arco Arena in 2005
Anderson and Scott spoke at length before Anderson dropped in 18 points against the Kings in a 109-97 victory.
“He was the hardest-working kid I ever met,” Scott said. “Great all-around player and guy.”
Added Anderson to his old coach, “This is my guy, right here!”
Anderson is equally fond of Sleep Train Arena. To him, it’ll always be Arco Arena, a place that helped hook him on the sport.
“Coming back into this arena,” he said, “I have a million different memories. My first NBA game experience was here. The first player I watched and was in awe of was Vince Carter, and I played with him for three years.
“I always pinch myself and remind myself I’m here. A piece of my heart is always here. It brings me back home, of humble means, where I came from. This arena encompasses Sacramento. It put Sacramento on the map.”
Anderson said he is ecstatic that Golden 1 Center downtown will open in the fall. Sleep Train is giving way to a new era.
I always pinch myself and remind myself I’m here. A piece of my heart is always here. It brings me back home, of humble means, where I came from. This arena encompasses Sacramento. It put Sacramento on the map.
New Orleans’ Anderson on playing at Sleep Train Arena
“It’s great,” Anderson said. “I’m all for bringing in new jobs, how it’ll be a completely different culture for the city. I hope it doesn’t become too cool. I want Sacramento to be a humble, unknown place. I love it here. All the players in the NBA have nothing but good things to say about the city.”
Anderson isn’t sure where he will call home in a matter of weeks, or next season. Such is the nature of professional sports, a business of change. Anderson’s name regularly arises in trade speculation. The Kings reportedly discussed trading forward Rudy Gay for Anderson this week.
“Trade rumors, I’ve heard them for so long,” Anderson said. “It’s been a part of my whole career. Getting moved is part of the game. I was traded as a rookie. You have to be a professional about it. Never know what’s going to happen. If it happens, it happens.”
Anderson will be a free agent this summer. He is sure to draw some attention because there is always a market for tall shooters who can run the floor and finish at the rim.
“It’ll be exciting, interesting,” Anderson said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Imagine Anderson back home in purple and black, helping break in Golden 1 Center, his old prep coach nearby to crash the homecoming.