Lynn native Antonio Anderson has made his community proud everywhere his basketball career has taken him.
In 2002, Anderson was a key contributor on the Lynn Tech boys basketball team that won the state championship. Six years later, Anderson found himself in the championship game of the 2008 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament as a Memphis Tiger.
While at Memphis, Anderson starred alongside a core of future NBA talents in Derrick Rose, Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Robert Dozier while playing under coach John Calipari. In four seasons, Anderson averaged 8.5 points per game, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
In 2009, Anderson was the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and twice he was selected to the Conference USA All-Defensive Team.
Now, nine years after losing the NCAA Tournament final in a heartbreaker to Kansas, Anderson can watch his Memphis career reach a fairytale ending. On Tuesday, Anderson was informed that he had been selected as a member of the Memphis Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
“I was shocked,” Anderson. “Most people, it takes a long time for them to be picked to go into the Hall of Fame. Me, I graduated in 2009 so it took less than 10 years for me to get into the Hall of Fame at Memphis. I’m super excited and proud of myself. It’s a great feeling.”
Anderson is the second former local basketball star to be recently inducted into a Division 1 Hall of Fame, after Peabody native Kevin Bettencourt was inducted into Bucknell’s Hall of Fame Class of 2017 in June.
“It means a lot,” Anderson said. “It’s a huge accomplishment. I earned a Division 1 scholarship and it was a blessing to play at that level. I’m still in awe about it all. It’s so surreal.”
Anderson, who went on to play professionally in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010, credited his coaches and family for paving the way to his success.
“For me, it’s rewarding,” Anderson added. “I was never the leading scorer. It just shows the appreciation that the university has for me. The fans, the alumni, it means a lot. All my coaches along the way helped me get to where I was. I couldn’t have done it without them and my family. It’s huge.”
His playing days have come to a close but Anderson still remains close to the sport he loves through coaching. In a few months, the former Tigers star will begin his first season as head coach of the boys basketball team at Lynn English. Prior to being hired at English, Anderson held stints as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Salem State and Franklin Pierce.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Anderson said. “I was always a good leader. Coach Cal made me a team captain as a sophomore at Memphis. Now I’m coaching young men in Lynn and I’d like to see them surpass what I reached.”
As the high school basketball season quickly approaches, Anderson and the Bulldogs are anxious to get started and show they can compete. But his priority, Anderson said, is to preach the importance of academics.
“I can’t wait. I thank Principal (Tom) Strangie and (Athletic Director) Mr. (Dick) Newton all the time,” Anderson said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for me to show the community what we’re capable of at English. We want to show we can compete but my goal is for these kids to take care of academics. After that, basketball will take care of itself. I preach academics and I’ll continue to preach that as long as I’m coaching at English.”
Anderson also prides himself in being a positive example for the youth in Lynn. He believes opportunities through sports are achievable, but, again, academics are the priority.
“I just want people to see that there are positives in Lynn,” Anderson said. “There are ways to be looked upon in the right way. I want kids to know that there are opportunities but they don’t happen without grades and academics. That’s the most important thing.”