Family, fate carry Anderson into the madness of March
March 7, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Yvonne Anderson was born for basketball. At least, that’s how the story goes.
Her father, Mike, was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Arkansas, and the Razorbacks were in the middle of the Southwest Conference tournament in Dallas, when his wife, Marcheita, called and said his daughter was on the way.
“Don’t push,” Mike said, “Wait until I get there.”
But as he was on the airplane, Yvonne was ready to see the world -- one month early, but perfectly sized and healthy at 6 lbs, 8 oz. Her timing was perfect as well. Four weeks later, the Razorbacks advanced to the Final Four.
“And I walked in with this little baby,” Marcheita recalls. “She actually went to the Final Four when she was four weeks old.”
So, you can understand what Yvonne means when she says she didn’t really learn basketball, but absorb it. The year after Arkansas won the national championship, then-head coach Nolan Richardson released an instructional video, and at the end, there was a 4-year-old Yvonne, shooting 10-footers and dribbling around her back.
“Those are some of my earliest memories, just wanting to play and knowing I could play, and wanting to be on the floor with my dad,” Yvonne says. “I was just always around it, observing. That’s how I learned.”
Basketball is in her blood, and in her instincts, and those instincts carry the Texas Longhorns into this week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships. Anderson has scored in double-figures for four-straight games, averaging almost 20 points and seven rebounds during that stretch.
Anderson grew up playing the one- and two-guard positions, and while she’s most comfortable distributing, Anderson doesn’t have a problem seeking her own shot.
“I definitely feel more freedom within our offense,” Anderson says. “Coach (Gail Goestenkors) is allowing me to make reads and make choices, and for the most part, they’ve been pretty good. So, she keeps rewarding me with that freedom. I’m seeing shots that I can take, and I’m knocking them down.”
After Arkansas, Mike became the head coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham, and later Missouri, where he still coaches today. When her children were out of school, Marcheita took them to the arena, where they finished homework at the scorer’s table while Mike conducted practice.
Evenings then consisted of workouts and one-on-one with Dad. To this day, Yvonne says Mike, who played at Tulsa, is the hardest player she’s ever had to guard.
“I had to play him, so I had to learn to play defense. I was always smaller, and offensively I was limited in what I could do. But I could always play defense, and I was always ready for that challenge,” Yvonne says. “I like guarding the best player. I think that’s the best thing you can do in a game.”
If she woke up early on the weekends, Yvonne just went downstairs to find Mike watching tape. She’d sit down and listen to him break things down. With the natural instincts of a player, her mind developed like that of a coach.
Family and fate allowed for this. On Tuesday, the same day the Longhorns take on Missouri in the first round of the conference tournament, Yvonne will turn 21.
“They call me the Final Four baby. That’s what I know,” Yvonne says. “There’s no substitute for heart. When you’re on the floor, there’s nothing you can do better than play your heart out. That’s what I’ve learned -- play hard, play tough.”