Given that he’s got two Division I guard signees, Madison Prep Academy basketball coach Jeff Jones got a few raised eyebrows from colleagues inquiring about his best player this season.
Logically, they believed Jones’ response would either be St. John’s commitment Brandon Sampson or Rhode Island signee Christian Thompson.
“People think I’m crazy, but I’ve always said Josh is probably our best overall player,” Jones said of sophomore Josh Anderson.
Taking into consideration Madison Prep’s deep and potent roster, that’s quite an endorsement, but then again, Anderson, a versatile 6-foot-5 player, is quite a talent and has melded his considerable ability into arguably one of the state’s top teams.
Top-seeded MPA (29-1) looks to begin another run to the Top 28 tournament at home Friday against No. 32 St. Mary’s of Natchitoches (10-18) at 6:30 p.m.
“I’ve known Josh since he was 10-11, growing up playing AAU,” Jones said. “He’s been talented for quite a while. From what I saw of him as a freshman, the role he’s had this year is pretty much everything I expected.”
True to his versatility, Anderson has provided MPA with a little bit of everything from a capable scorer, outstanding ball handler and facilitator to suffocating on-ball defender.
With Sampson and Thompson combining to average 33 points a game — Sampson 18 and Thompson 15 — Anderson has found his niche as a catch-and-shoot scorer from the perimeter with the ability to drive and score or kick out to open shooters.
Anderson’s 16-point average is second on the team, while his seven rebounds are third. He also averages five assists and 2.5 steals.
“I knew I was going to be a role player,” Anderson said. “I needed to play defense and not just be an offensive player.”
Anderson’s varsity career got off to an ill-fated start a year ago, playing in his first game after becoming eligible at mid-term and inadvertently tipping in a basket for Southern Lab in a two-point loss.
“He shook that off and has been great,” Jones grinned.
Anderson went on to lead MPA in eight of the nine games he started, but along with his teammates endured a 50-47 loss to Country Day in the Class 1A state championship game.
“We’ve worked hard this whole year because we don’t want to feel that again,” Anderson said. “We want to go back, win the championship and walk off with the trophy.”
With the return of Sampson, an All-State selection, and arrival of Thompson as a transfer from Dutchtown, MPA had all the makings of a dynamic backcourt with Anderson expected to complement them.
Anderson, who has scholarship offers from St. John’s, USC and Richmond, with interest from LSU and Oklahoma State, has blended in with his two more experienced teammates but when necessary has demonstrated the capability of taking over a game.
Case in point took place in MPA’s season-opening 56-46 victory at St. Michael the Archangel when Sampson was saddled with foul trouble.
Anderson responded with a game-high 25 points, answered with 25 in the Chargers’ lone loss to Jackson-Calloway and had a season-high 27 a district-clinching win over Southern Lab.
“That game gave me a lot of confidence and showed what I could do,” Anderson said. “It’s a level of maturity. When my number was called, I felt like it was my time and I had to step up.”