Recalling Villanova's 2009 Final Four season
Role player Dwayne Anderson enjoyed his playing career overseas and is now an assistant coach at Penn State.
PHILADELPHIA college basketball fans can remember the shot. Scottie Reynolds raced the length of the court and made a tough runner to send Villanova in its fourth Final Four.
While it is the last shot, and the celebration that ensued, that people will remember, there was a lot more to that team than just Reynolds' heroics. That year, 2009, the Wildcats were balanced with talent, experience and leadership. Dwayne Anderson was one of the senior starters on the squad, and led it both on and off the court.
Anderson was a 6-6 guard/forward. While his statistics weren't eye-opening, the heart of the team ran through Anderson. He was fifth in scoring with 9.0 points per game average, but it was the leadership aspect where he excelled. He knew he had a job to do, and he did not have to be the one to put up 20 points a night.
"We knew we had certain guys that could step up and make big-time shots in big-time games, and we had that throughout that year," Anderson said. "If Scottie Reynolds was off one night, you knew Dante [Cunningham] was going to score. If Dante was off, you knew Shane Clark was going to step up. We had Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and a lot of different guys and pieces.
"So many different guys bought into Villanova basketball."
It was the complete buy into the Villanova basketball way that made the team successful. Each player knew he had a role to fill, even if it did not include scoring or rebounding.
"That was our main focus," said Cunningham, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. "We all bought in. We knew if we were going in the same direction we could move mountains. Once we did that, we were unstoppable."
For a time, they were unstoppable. But their season came to an end when they could not get past a high-powered North Carolina team in the national semifinals.
Many of the players took advantage of their time at Villanova, especially Anderson.
Like most college players, Anderson had his sights set on professional basketball. He knew the NBA would be a stretch as the draft came and went, so he decided to take his talents abroad.
In 2009, he signed a contract with BG Gottingen in Germany, where he stayed for 2 years. He spent time with Italy's Piacenza before returning to Germany to play for S. Oliver Baskets, where he finished his career. Anderson is thankful for the opportunities provided to him overseas.
"When I was overseas, I had a great career," Anderson said. "I loved it, I enjoyed it. I learned a different language and got to see several different countries. I had a lot of fun."
Anderson was named to the German league all-star team twice. Yet, there came a time in his career when he and his wife had to make a decision. She wanted to work, so they explored other options. His Villanova connections came up big once again.
"I always told coach [Pat] Chambers and coach [Jay] Wright, all the coaches at Villanova, that I wanted to coach," Anderson said. "They said to keep in contact with them while I was overseas. It was at a point in my career that my wife wanted to work, so we thought it was best that we both started a new chapter in our life."
Luckily, Chambers had been named the Penn State coach in 2011, and had an opening when he and Anderson talked in 2013. Anderson accepted an assistant coaching position with the Nittany Lions.
Anderson says that it was a tough decision to step away from playing the game after doing so professionally for only 4 years, but he thinks he made the right one.
"I am a person who strongly believes that when you make a decision, there is no regret," Anderson said of retiring. "Of course, I went back and forth with it. I was in my prime, I had a nice contract that was on the table for the next 3 years. The only difficult part was that. Other than that, I was ready to give it up."
Anderson and the rest of that 2008-09 Villanova team have gone their separate ways. But when they get together, they always seem to talk about a certain shot deep in March Madness - Reynolds' game-winner against Pitt.
"That play, we ran it every day in practice so we knew what was going on," Cunningham said. "It never worked. We never hit the shot. We never really got it past halfcourt."
But on March 28, 2009, they did hit the shot, when it mattered most, and it will stay with them the rest of their lives.