Current NBA pro Justin Anderson sure has been all around the country in only his first 25 years of life. Tracing back to the high school years, the 6’7” wing’s made stops in Maryland, Las Vegas, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and many other cities/states. He’s stepped out of the U.S. as well; having most recently visited Tanzania the other week. Still, when asked what truly ‘feels like home,’ Anderson always acknowledges a specific East Coast spot: Fredericksburg, VA. It’s for good reason too, considering it’s the place where it all started in beginning his journey to the NBA.
Those who had the chance to read my April article, ‘You Know Hoo? feat. Justin Anderson,’ most likely noted the Fredericksburg connection between myself and Anderson. I explained how I first met and began to train with him and his older brother, E.J., during the summer before his senior year of high school and my sophomore year. From there, we’ve kept a good friendship to this present day. Back in June 2017, after Anderson’s second NBA year and first season with the Philadelphia 76ers, I can recall becoming excited to hear the news that he would be hosting his inaugural elite camp. That first year resulted as a huge success, as members of the community all showed support of Anderson’s actions.
Fast forward to today, the camp’s entered its third year and the host’s enthusiasm hasn’t decreased in the slightest bit. Anderson, who played high school ball at Montrose Christian School (Rockville, MD) and his college hoops for the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA) once again put together an incredibly strong staff of camp counselors. Damien Jenifer (former high school assistant coach of Anderson and current CEO of ‘First Choice Basketball Training), Josh Hairston (overseas professional player and former Duke University basketball product), Teven Jones (college teammate/roommate of Anderson), and Micah Fraction (high school teammate of Anderson and graduate assistant for University of Miami basketball) all helped out greatly.
What I like most about Anderson’s elite camps? The teaching. With a group of older mentors who have played and/or coached at the next level, the 18 campers in attendance gained great knowledge of how to improve their games over three days. The camp’s first two days (7/25 – 7/26) involved seven-hour mornings/afternoons filled with body workouts, conditioning, drills, challenges, and competitive play. Instead of just rolling the balls out and letting guys play for a couple of hours, I respected Anderson and his crew’s approach in making sure their young prospects received a full experience and also understood why each rep was necessary. I heard several quotes from the staff throughout the week:
“What’s something you’re going to do to separate yourself?”
“Learn how to be uncomfortable comfortably.”
“Go all out during these drills so that, if you’re ever blessed to see yourself in a college setting, you can say that you’ve done this before.”
“Don’t waste time making wasted movements.”
“To play at a high level, you HAVE to make shots. Especially the open ones.”
“This is one step to hopefully achieving a goal for lifetime success.”
“You have to put yourself in a position to do the unthinkable.”
“We’re all brothers here. Brothers should always pick each other up.”
Those are just a couple of statements but one should get the gist. Anderson’s campers went all out during the first two days and put on a show for Saturday’s (7/27) All-Star Game, as Team White came back down from a double-digit deficit to win it 96-94 over Team Red. Being a big ‘people person,’ Anderson sacrificed time for a nice summer event in ‘the Burg,’ as we call it, and I could tell everybody respects/appreciates his care for the area. I’m excited to see what’s in store for his and the campers’ future.
My Six Camp Standouts
Khai Seargeant ’20 – Courtland HS (Spotsylvania County, VA): Having now been a camp participant for all three years, I’m sure Seargeant’s confident demeanor partially stemmed from the notion that he knew how things operated. In all of the drills and competition, he stood out as arguably the best ball-handler on the floor. He has a great ‘pop’ in his game and uses slick moves to get wherever he wants, whether it’s one or multiple defenders guarding him. I felt he did best in quickly stopping for pull-up jumpers in the mid-range area; something I’ve constantly repeated as important for lead guards to contain. If Seargeant wasn’t knocking down these jumpers, one could best believe he was getting to the rim at a quick rate. The 5’11” guard can clearly score it very well but just needs to find a balance between that area and playmaking for others. Sometimes he tends to force shots a bit excessively, especially when defenses focus solely on him. Nevertheless, it was a strong showing for the 540 poduct, as he poured in a team-high 37 points in the All-Star Game and collected Camp MVP honors.
Dorion Staples ’20 – Massaponax HS (Spotsylvania County, VA): Entering the gym as the tallest and biggest camper, at around 6’7,” Staples has a good deal of tools that he must learn how to consistently use at all times. He’s stronger than most of his peers and showed a capability to forcefully control the paint when he wants to. His strong hands in going after rebounds/stick-backs usually led to the forward earning a number of free-throw attempts and he can step out to shoot on the perimeter too. Often, Staples would settle too much for the outside shot, however. I, along with the other camp counselors, wanted him to realize he’s a deadly force when consistently asserting himself down low; it’s definitely fine to take outside shots in certain scenarios but any player with a size advantage needs to recognize appropriate timing. Once the All-Star Game arrived, Staples took his play to an entirely new level. He did a bit of everything, scoring-wise, to explode for a game-high 46 points. It was one of the most impressive and efficient performances I’ve seen in any setting this summer. If he can show a focused/disciplined approach like that for his senior campaign, I don’t see how anybody in the Commonwealth District could get in his way.
Kendrick Robinson ’20 – Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA): I’m sure most will agree the bouncy Robinson resulted as the best athlete in camp, as well as one of the smartest players. Likewise to what I’ve seen from the guard in both high school and travel ball, he continued to hold a very unselfish style of play, which led to him finding others all around the court for open shots. With the ball in his hands, I could tell Robinson’s teammates and coaches shared confidence that he would make proper decisions within the offense. His versatility on both ends is, and has been, his best overall trait. His 6’4” strong frame helps him play and defend multiple positions on the court; doing whatever his coaches ask of him. I liked how well he handled the ball to get his shot off in competitive drills, bullied his way to the basket, and made some nice highlight plays. He’s done very well in improving his physical attributes this summer, which should prove beneficial once the winter season gets here.
Logan Suber ’23 – Riverbend HS (Fredericksburg, VA): When talking strictly about toughness, Suber was in a league of his own during the first two days of camp he could attend. He’s far from the biggest guy, at only 5’5,” but his unmatched heart made him one of, if not, the most admirable player I saw participating. The young guard gets the job done on both sides of the floor, using his competitiveness to outwork opponents. For a guy who hasn’t even officially began high school yet, I found myself intrigued by his basketball IQ. It’s easy to note he’s played a lot against older competition to gain an above-average feel for the court and learn how to sniff out others’ tendencies. Suber has good shot-creating abilities, court vision, hustle for loose balls, and pesky defense. The latter area just might be his best asset. He took on several talented ball-handlers during scrimmages and/or 4v4 play; slowing them down uncomfortably. I’m expecting some really good things out of him for this upcoming high school tenure. If he grows to anywhere near the height of his brother, Jalen ’21 (6’3”), watch out. He took home the ‘Iron Man’ accolade; a fitting recognition.
Aaron Carter ’21 – James Monroe HS (Fredericksburg, VA): Bringing a lot of passion to the floor, the energetic 5’8” guard just seemed to get better and better as the hours of camp went on. Carter can really heat up to make shots; he definitely fits into my usual classification of ‘microwave guys.’ His three-point shooting and hard-nosed defense suits him well right now, along with some solid playmaking abilities too. I personally see playmaking as an aspect of his game he should keep focusing the most on. If Carter can prove himself as one who’s able to take over a lead guard role, if ever required, it’ll make him a greater target at his size. He can already shoot it well but showing production as one who sets up others would make a big difference. The rising upperclassmen also has another important intangible: being a good teammate. I liked how he always cheered on his guys and became energized by their own successful play. He has a personality that I would want on my team, for sure. After contributing in a significant way during Team White’s comeback in the All-Star Game, Carter finished with 32 points and was awarded as the camp’s ‘Most Improved Player.’
Jalen Suber ’21 – Riverbend HS (Fredericksburg, VA): Logan’s older brother doesn’t do one or two things particularly great but definitely contributes in valuable ways. A 6’3” guy who can play both inside and out, I like how calmly he goes about his business to make all sorts of winning plays. Suber finishes well at the rim, rebounds, can pitch ahead passes, runs the floor, and makes shots. He evidently knows how to play the game ‘the right way’ and didn’t appear to worry about his own personal stat line. Right now, I see him more as an interchangeable product who’s still trying to figure out his true position. If he can build upon his ball-handling, it should allow him to become more of an established perimeter threat. Still, I personally think he should also keep taking pride of those skills in the paint, especially when considering he’ll likely come across some mismatches. Regardless of what position he ends up becoming, fans of the Riverbend Bears should know that Suber has one of the strongest chances of bringing a ‘spark plug’ presence for his upperclassmen years as a varsity returner.
Thank you to my guy, Justin, for having me cover his camp. One of the best young motivators in the sport around!