The list of the greatest basketball players in St. Anthony’s storied history usually comes down to a handful of names.
Bobby Hurley, “Mandy” Johnson, Rodrick Rhodes, Jerry Walker, David Rivers and Tyshawn Taylor are among those in the conversation.
Bobby Hurley led his team to the inaugural Tournament of Champions title in 1989 and went on to appear in three Final Fours and lead Duke to back-to-back NCAA titles.
Walker was a four-year starter, won four state titles and lost only five games in his career under legendary coach Bob Hurley.
Several players in the mid-1990s won three straight New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles.
The 2007-8 team went undefeated and sent six players to the Division 1 ranks.
But now here comes Bobby Hurley saying he believes that 6-foot-9 UCLA-bound point guard Kyle Anderson has the greatest upside of any St. Anthony Friar. Ever.
“If you think about what his potential is and his upside is, I think it’s as high as any player who has stepped in the door,” Hurley, now an assistant to his brother Dan at Wagner College, told SNY.tv.
“As far as how far he could potentially take his talent. You forecast him as an NBA player and a guy that could, if he continues to work and continues to put all the time in that he has to get to where he is now, he could take if further than any guy that’s come to St. Anthony.”
In October, Bob Hurley Sr. called Anderson a “modern-day Magic Johnson.”
“I think he’s the most dominant player to ever play at the school,” said Hurley, a Naismith Hall of Famer.
“His improvement from last year till now is unbelievable. He’s certainly the most versatile kid ever anywhere near his size that I’ve ever coached.”
Bobby and Danny were in the stands at Hackensack High School last Sunday when Anderson and the Friars beat back a tough St. Benedict’s club, 51-50.
Entering Saturday’s game against Roselle Catholic in the SFIC Festival at Kean College, Anderson is now 41-0 in a St. Anthony uniform.
Counting his sophomore season at Paterson Catholic — in which his only loss was to St. Anthony in the New Jersey state tournament — Anderson is 69-1 in the last two-plus seasons and 95-6 in his four-year career at PC and St. Anthony.
Along with Myles Mack, Anderson left PC after his sophomore season when the school closed and proceeded to help the Friars go 33-0 last year en route to a mythical national title.
Now he wants another one.
“Part of playing for St. Anthony is going down in history, that’s what it’s all about,” he said after the St. Ben’s game.
“So we would be the first team to go 66-0 and win two national championships so that’s just our goal.”
Walker, the former Seton Hall standout, has known Anderson since grammar school.
“He’s a clever player,” Walker told SNY.tv. “He reminds me of myself. He knows how to play angles. He plays angles really well. He does make up for his shortfalls.”
Anderson is far from the quickest player on the floor, but his ability to see the game develop, play the angles and to make the right play is unique.
UCLA plans to play him everywhere from the point to the power forward, and Bobby Hurley believes Anderson must play the three going forward to be most effective.
“I’m very hesitant to try and figure out what position he is,” Hurley said. “I’ve had a hard time doing that myself.
“Personally what I believe is that he’s going to have to be a three-man at the NBA level. With his size and his passing ability giving him a size advantage on the wing and the problems he can create, that’s where he’s going to find himself at the highest level if he makes it there and does what he’s supposed to do.
“The NBA, they like their guards to be real push guys and transition oriented. I see Kyle more as a three man.”
While everyone has an opinion on how Anderson will — and should — develop at the college and NBA levels, the player himself is just focused on continuing to win.
And what exactly would his legacy be if he leads St. Anthony to another Tournament of Champions crown, or another undefeated season as he says is the plan?
“I don’t know if they can go undefeated this year,” Walker said. “But [if they did] he could honestly say he never lost a game at St. Anthony.
“That would be something I can’t say.”