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Mariner Star Would Like to Hook a Few Cage Fans

Times Staff Writer

Marymount College’s basketball program--in it’s third season--is hardly the talk of the town. Even locals are unaware that the small gym at the Calvary Assembly of God church in Lomita is used by the Mariners for afternoon practice.

About the only fame Mariner basketball has to claim is that Loyola Marymount basketball Coach Paul Westhead, also a former Laker coach, started it as an intramural program in 1985 when he taught English at Marymount.

Mariner forward James Anderson is working on changing that. If anything, the 6-foot-3 sophomore can shoot his way to notoriety.

“He can score from anywhere,” said Marymount Coach Jim Masterson, who is also the school’s athletic director. “He’s even 50% from 3-point range. James is really a prolific scorer.”

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Anderson, who grew up and lives in Carson, led the Mariners in scoring (15.6 points a game) last year despite coming off the bench most of the season. He shot 50% from the floor but only 65% from the free-throw line and averaged 6.4 rebounds as a guard.

He led the Mariners to fourth place in the Southern California Athletic Conference with a 7-5 record (14-14 overall), a big improvement from the 1986-87 season when Marymount finished 7-21 (2-10 in the SCAC).

“It still hurt,” Anderson said. “It was the first time I was on a team that didn’t go to the playoffs. We have something to prove this year and I think we have the leadership to do it.”

Anderson and guard Ernie Woods have demonstrated that. Woods is a 6-foot-3 sophomore who trails Anderson with a 24-point average. Anderson leads the 4-10 Mariners in scoring (25 points per game) and rebounding (13 a game). He’s also the team’s best 3-point and free-throw shooter.

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“I like his confidence,” said sophomore guard William Hailey. “James feels no one can stop him, and it’s true. He always does what it takes.”

Anderson, 20, has scored in the 30s in three games this season. Marymount’s 93-90 victory over Victor Valley last month was one of those games when balls shot by Anderson felt nothing but net. He scored a game-high 38 points and grabbed 20 rebounds.

“You think James and you think shoot ,” said Issy Washington, who runs summer tournaments for all-star high school basketball players and started working with Anderson when he was in third grade. “He loves to shoot that ball and he shoots it well. Now he has even better shot selection.”

Washington, who has seen many top-ranked high school prospects, says he could tell Anderson was talented at a very young age.

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“He was a good athlete from the start,” Washington said. “Even as a little kid he had great fundamentals. He always looked good on the court. “

Anderson started playing basketball in Carson’s Victoria Park League when he was 5. His father, John, who runs the Olympic Girls Development League, introduced him to the game. He also coached him.

“He’s a great offensive player,” John Anderson said. “James is a complete, multidimensional player. He can do just about anything when he’s on a basketball court.”

John Anderson enrolled his son at St. Anthony High in Long Beach because he felt it was better academically than any South Bay public school. John wanted his son to combine St. Anthony’s strong academics and athletics in order to play basketball at a four-year college.

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Anderson excelled on the court but not in the classroom. That may seem ironic since his father is the assistant principal at Monrovia High and stresses academics among his development league players, who are top-notch high school girls.

“I admit it,” Anderson said, “I messed up in school. I’d get home and just throw my books on the bed and go out and run around with girls and play basketball.

“I guess I kind of let my dad down because he’s always wanted me to play basketball, especially in college. At a good college.”

So after a successful basketball career at St. Anthony, Anderson had nowhere to go. He averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds as an all-league and all-city player in his senior year, but his grades were at the basement level.

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Clemson and the University of San Diego, which were interested in his athletic ability, backed off because of his academic problems.

Anderson had no choice but to attend a junior college if he wanted to continue playing basketball. He considered Harbor and El Camino but opted for Marymount after Masterson told him about the Mariners’ young program.

Now Anderson is on track to graduate from the small, private Palos Verdes college in the spring but plans to compete next year.

Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Iowa have shown interest. Anderson would rather stay close to home but is willing to leave the state for a basketball scholarship. That however, is the future.

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Right now his priority is to earn respect for the adolescent Marymount basketball club, which plays its home games at Harbor since the school has no gym.

And he plans to dedicate more time to scholastic activities so that he can fulfill his father’s dream of playing Division I basketball.


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