Looking for a breakout summer

La Cañada resident McKay Anderson rarely takes center stage as a player on a La Verne Lutheran boys' basketball team, a team that boasts plenty of future NCAA Division I — and maybe even some NBA — talent.

However, plenty of eyes will be on Anderson when he competes in the Reebok Basketball Breakout Challenge, a NCAA evaluation camp, July 5-9 in Philadelphia. The event pits top high school players from around the nation in head-to-head competition and skills training as college scouts watch closely and evaluate athletes for potential scholarship offers.

"I just want to get some exposure and get a look from some different colleges, and get better as well," said Anderson, who had to earn his way to Philadelphia by competing against hundreds of the area's best players May 21 in the Reebok Headliner Los Angeles Tryout at the Players' Edge facility in Corona.

The Breakout Challenge is a camp designed to give lesser-known players a level of exposure they might otherwise not receive. The camp's greatest success story is John Wall. He participated in the event four years ago as an unknown and came out of the camp as the No. 1 high school recruit in his class. Wall went on to be named the South Eastern Conference's Player of the Year out of the University of Kentucky and was selected by the Washington Wizards as the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick in 2010.

Eric Cooper, Anderson's coach at La Verne, said it's an honor for Anderson to participate in the Reebok Breakout Challenge and he's looking for him to have a breakout summer.

"The eyes have been opened a little bit," Cooper said. "He just needs to play hard all the time and play off of his instincts more. I am looking for him to be one of our key guys and top scorers next year."

Playing for La Verne, Anderson, a 6-foot 4-inch guard, was a part of the team that defeated La Cañada in the CIF State Division III Southern California Regional final championship game, 54-47, at the Galen Center on March 19. He didn't play in the game, but recorded valuable minutes and hit a big three-pointer in the Trojans' 64-59 victory against Bishop O'Dowd in the CIF State Division Championship at the Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento on March 26.

"It was my first time actually playing in an NBA arena," said Anderson, who transferred to La Verne from Flintridge Prep his sophomore year and averaged 5 points, 3.3 assists and .7 steals a game last season. "It was just a surreal experience. When I looked around, there were seats on all sides and they were full, too. I'm not used to seeing that. It was unnerving.

"I hope those situations I've been in help calm my nerves [for the Reebok Breakout Basketball Challenge]."

Anderson was one of four players selected for the Breakout Challenge at the Reebok Headliner Los Angeles Tryout, one of several tryouts for the challenge that took place across the country this year. Anderson played in four games in five hours and felt secure in his performance.

"I definitely thought I had a chance of making it to Philadelphia, but I didn't want to assume I was going to," he said. "It's never good to be overconfident; I was just focused on playing."

Cooper knows exactly why Anderson was hand-picked from the hundreds at the Los Angeles tryout.

"He's long and can play multiple positions, the one through the four, and he can play them all pretty well," Cooper said. "When they see he isn't pigeonholed into one position and he can play four positions well, his upside is tremendous. If he keeps growing and developing, he's going to be one of the best players I have ever coached."

Anderson hopes to continue turning the heads of college scouts in Philadelphia as he tries to reach his goal of playing NCAA Division I basketball. Cooper has no doubt Anderson will be playing for a major university in a few years. He even thinks he should start setting his sights a little higher.

"That's not even a question mark," Cooper said. "It's just about where he's going to go. He is going to play NCAA basketball, no matter what. He may be thinking about what he's going to do after that and how high his cap is."

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