I've always been a diehard Lakers' fans, but after watching highlights of the Pelicans' 131-128 triple OT win over the Bulls on Monday, I definitely plan to catch more basketball action in New Orleans.
Two of my favorite players I covered as preps — albeit in a limited capacity — starred for New Orleans and are playing at or near All-Star levels. Ryan Anderson
, the pride of Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills, Calif.)
, and Jrue Holiday
, of Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.)
, led their high school teams to state titles before embarking on Pac-12 college careers.
Anderson had a career high 36 points against the Bulls upping his team-high season average to 22.6 per game, and Holiday added 19 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds — and the game-winning hoop with a highlight reel drive and hanging lay-up over Taj Gibson with 4.5 seconds to play.
Holiday was fouled on the play and completed the 3-point play. An NBA All-Star last season for the 76ers last year, Holiday is averaging 14.5 points, 8.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds a game for New Orleans. Last year he was the only NBA player to average at least 17 points and 8 assists per contest.
I covered Anderson only three or four times, most notably while beating Jeremy Lin-less Palo Alto
55-35 for the 2004-05 Northern California Division II title, a week before stunning then nationally ranked Mater Dei 60-44 for the state crown. Lin
had injured his knee playing in a pick-up game and didn't get to play against Oak Ridge. Lin would have made a big difference, but not 20 points worth. Oak Ridge was a complete team that season with all parts as it showed in a decisive win over Mater Dei which featured high-scoring forward Taylor King.
Like he is now, Anderson was a big-bodied 6-foot-10 power forward who could shoot. He averaged a team-high 17.4 points that season before really lighting it up as a senior, averaging 28.9 per game and 10.9 rebounds. That team was 26-3 but was shocked in the sectionals by Laguna Creek.
It was uncanny to see a prep kid that big with that kind of long-range touch. He made a team-high 41 3-pointers as a senior.
Holiday was one of the nation's top players in high school, a McDonald's All-American who led Campbell Hall to three state titles in his four-year career. Beyond his gaudy numbers (25.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 4.8 steals per game as a senior), he was an all-around good guy as well.
He had a strong, reserved personality, but a wry sense of humor. He seemed well beyond his years and didn't run with a pack. In fact, his senior year he was the girls tennis team's team manager. He told me he liked the ratio of girls to boys on the team bus.
This is how we described him going into his final game as a prep:
"Think Dwayne Wade with high basketball IQ. Ambidextrous. Defensive stopper. Slasher. Powerful. Graceful. In short, his coach Terry Kelly calls Holiday "the ultimate winner."
Check out Chris Stonebraker's excellent interviews in the summer at UNLV with both Anderson and Holiday about their high school days. Both were a part of the 2013 USA Basketball Men's National Team Mini-Camp.