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February 03, 2000 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-02-03

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'A

10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 3, 2000

THE FORGOTTEN FRESHMAN
By Jacob Wheeler - Daily Sports Editor

his year's crop of Michigan fresh
men hasn't had too much trouble
avoiding the lurking label "Fab
Five" - a reference to the class which
will stand out forever in the minds of
Wolverine fans.
That's because for the majority of this
season, only four freshmen have graced
Crisler Arena.
Sitting quietly on the bench until this
past Tuesday night, as fellow freshmen
Jamal Crawford, Kevin Gaines and
LaVell Blanchard etched their names
down as contestants in the Big Ten con-
ference race, has been forward Leland
Anderson - the forgotten freshman.
He finally returned to college basket-
ball in Michigan's 20-point loss to the
Spartans, scoring four points in 10 min-
utes. And it couldn't have come at a bet-
ter time, with Crawford replacing
Anderson on the bench due to his ineli-
gibility. Anderson didn't make any sig-
nificant impact in Michigan's third-con-
secutive loss, but his renewed presence is
important for a team without a strong
power forward.
Anderson missed 10 games after
receiving a knee to his right quadricep
during a pre-season practice - the same
injury (to the left leg) he suffered during
his last season of high school basketball,
in Attleboro, Mass., a suburb of Boston.
He played in Michigan's first seven
games, but not to the level of his awe-
inspiring classmates since the injury lim-
ited his speed and jumping ability.
Leland averaged only 8.4 minutes per
game and attempted only 15 field goals
during those seven games.
"It's been hard for him," Michigan
coach Brian Ellerbe said. "To watch the
other four (freshmen) come in, play well
and produce. That's tough."
So Ellerbe, and team trainer Steve
Stricker, confined Anderson to the
bench, in street clothes - a place all too
familiar a year ago. His 10-game tenure
riding the pine was the second time in
two years Anderson fell from promi-
nence and had to watch the game he
loves from afar.
STRENGTH AND GLORY: Two springs
ago, as a high school junior, Anderson
towered over New England. The 6-foot-
8 giant from Attleboro, who uses all of
his 245-pound frame to disrhantle
opposing arm wrestlers from the mean
streets of Boston to the athletic facilities
of Ann Arbor, had just powered
Attleboro High to a state championship
in boys basketball - its first since 1943.
His uncle Jim and his father Kerry,
two basketball nuts in a state where the

sport is taken very seriously, were awful-
ly proud. The hoop they had installed in
the backyard when Leland was young
had become his best friend. And now,
with a full year of high school eligibility
remaining, their boy had a chance to win
back-to-back state championships, and
maybe even break the state scoring
record.
In his prime, Kerry played for
Attleboro High School himself, but
never won a state championship, or
established the dominating inside game
that would enable his son to average 27.6
points and I I rebounds per game as a
junior. Kerry was good, but he was no
Leland. Needless to say he never chal-
lenged the boy to an arm wrestling duel.
Though his father never encouraged
his son's off-the-court obsession,
Leland's massive right arm enjoyed as
much success at the bar as his post-up
body under the hoop. Leland followed
his older cousins' interest into the brute
hobby which, according to his mother
Derrv, "has a stigma attached to it as
being not a very high class sport." He
entered local competitions in the Boston
area and even took on Jerry Caderette, a
professional arm wrestler.
Through it all Leland has never come
away from a battle without a trophy.
Since he started arm wrestling at age 12,
Leland's brute strength has made mince
meat of many arms, including those of a
couple Michigan football players who
made the mistake of challenging the
green freshman to a duel when he first
arrived on campus this summer.
ATTLEBORO Lows: But basketball,
unlike arm wrestling, does not rely sole-
ly on strength and peak adrenaline for
under a minute. Basketball is a game that
utilizes all of an athlete's limbs and
unleashes nine other players to run
around those limbs at breakneck speeds.
Basketball, at times, can be very unfair.
Leland didn't win a second consecu-
tive state championship at Attleboro
High, and he didn't even come close to
breaking the state scoring record,
because he took a hard knee to the left
quadricep muscle early in his senior sea-
son. Just like his 10-game absence at
Michigan this season, he was confined
to wearing street clothes on the bench
and watching the game his father and
uncle had taught him.
Though he'd already signed to play
basketball for Brian Ellerbe at Michigan
the following season, it hurt on the court
because Leland couldn't help his team.
But he didn't expect the pain off the
court as well.

Basketball isn't just huge for the
Anderson family, it's big throughout the
Boston area. And when Attleboro, a
town of 30,000 people, lost its star play-
er to an injury which wasn't visible to
every pedestrian on the street, the bas-
ketball faithful began asking questions.
"People didn't realize the extent of the
injury," Attleboro coach Mark Houle
said. "The taste of success the year
before made it more difficult. People
asked why-why-why? They wanted to
see him play."
Leland continued working out with
his two best friends - both of whom
had already graduated - at the local
gym, lifting weights and working on bas-
ketball skills as much as he could con-
sidering the leg injury.
According to his mother Derry, the
locals second-guessed Leland because
they figured if he was healthy enough to
work out, he was probably healthy
enough to win Attleboro High another
state title.
"People who had rallied around him
were now dissing him when he was
down," Derry said. "They said things
like, 'We see him playing at the YMCA,
but he won't play for his team. We
weren't expecting this at the high school
level."
THE FINAL STRAW: By the end of the
season, the torture of watching his team-
mates on the court without him had
become too much. Leland informed
Houle that he wouldn't travel with the
team to the last two tournament games.
His doctor had recommended that he

pull the plug on the season "with his
future in mind," and Leland just couldn't
bear watching from the bench any
longer.
According to his father Kerry, Lela,
was shooting around in the homecourt
gym the night the team returned home,
one season-ending loss short of another
state championship. Out of anger, or
mere jealousy (Leland would be the first
Attleboro player to move on to a
Division I college team), the team
kicked him out of the gym.
But that wasn't the real insult to injury.
"Mark (Houle) called Leland into his
office after the season, to let him kna
that our family wouldn't be invited to'
team, awards banquet because Leland
had missed the last two games,' Kerry
Anderson said. "I was numb (to all the
animosity) by then, but my wife was
really hurt."
Bad blood, unfulfilled expectations
and all, Leland was ready to play bas-
ketball somewhere besides Attleboro;
somewhere nobody knew him, where
he didn't have to be the lone sV
Pencil in Ann Arbor, in the heart of
the Midwest, where Leland could
acclimate himself to the college game
along with four other talented fresh-
men, and the only heat he'd take from
teammates was for his Eastern pro-
nunciation of the word 'car.'
Through injury and re-injury, Lelan's
transition on the court has been anything
but smooth - but he still hasn't lost an
arm wrestling bout to anyone in Ann
Arbor.

DAVID KATZ/Daily
Leland Anderson finally saw playing time Tuesday against Michigan State after
missing 10 straight games due to a quadricep injury.
Tough man on campus
Leland Anderson
0 Hometown: Attleboro, Mass.
0 Averaging 8.6 minutes per game in
8 games so far this season
9 Shooting at .611 clip, second-best
on the team
8 Armwrestled, and defeated, Michigan football
player at freshman orientation last summer
6-8,245 pounds

d

DANNY KAUCK/ "y
Though he came in with a highly-touted recruiting class, Anderson has stood moast
ly in the background this season.

I ! 7

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