When Trevor Anderson decided he wanted to leave UW-Green Bay and transfer to the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program, he was met with a lot of resistance.
From the Phoenix coaching staff that had made him a priority recruit in the 2016 class. From his parents. Even from the man whose team he wanted to join.
What UW coach Greg Gard remembers most from a conversation with Anderson back in the spring are the same words that Anderson had stressed to everybody who had questioned his choice. “I will look back with regret,” Anderson told Gard, “if I don’t at least give this a chance.”
So here Anderson is, a member of the Badgers. He walked away from a scholarship and a starting spot in Green Bay for essentially the opposite of that security: At UW, he’s a walk-on who has to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, with no guarantees where or if he’ll fit in the rotation in 2018-19 and beyond.
And yet as Anderson’s two worlds collide this week — the Badgers (5-7) will host the Phoenix (5-7) Saturday at the Kohl Center — there’s no hesitation from the sophomore guard when asked if he’s sure he made the right call.
“It’s 100 percent right,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been better than I thought it would. I love this place. At the end of the day, I maybe hurt some feelings, but me and my family know this was definitely a good decision.”
That said, Anderson admitted it was strange to pull on a green jersey during practice leading up to the game against UW-Green Bay.
A year ago at this time, Anderson was a running the Phoenix’s up-tempo offense as a freshman point guard. He started the first 20 games, averaging 9.8 points, 2.7 assists and a team-high 28.5 minutes per game before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
This week, he’s the lead man on the Badgers’ scout team that gives the starters and top reserves an idea of what UW-Green Bay will do on offense and defense.
“It was weird,” Anderson said. “And the coaches were asking me, ‘Is this right?’ They were kind of asking me for help. That was a little weird knowing their scout before even hearing it. I know most of their game plan so it was kind of easy to play that way.”
The way the Phoenix play under coach Linc Darner is fast. According to the Ken Pomeroy ratings, UW-Green Bay’s average possession on offense lasts 14.7 seconds, the 11th-quickest pace in the nation. To help get the Badgers up to speed — pun intended — Gard allowed the scout team to begin possessions after made baskets without taking the ball out of bounds.
The Phoenix, like the Badgers, are struggling after several key personnel losses. UW-Green Bay had to replace eight of its top nine scorers from last season, including the transfers of Anderson to UW and Kerem Kanter to Xavier.
The Badgers, meanwhile, are still trying to adjust to the loss of guards D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King to injuries. As hard as it was for Anderson to sit and watch from the sidelines this season, it’s been particularly painful of late because he knows he could be on the floor helping a depleted backcourt.
“He’d probably be over on our team if he wasn’t having to sit this year out,” UW junior center Ethan Happ said. “But I think it’s good to have that good of a scoring point guard because that’s what we see almost every night is a point guard that can really score.”
One thing that was apparent to the UW coaching staff and players right from the start is that Anderson is competitive.
“He’s fiery,” Happ said, “is one way to put it.”
“For Trevor,” UW assistant coach Dean Oliver said, “every time he steps on the court it means something to him.”
Scott Anderson has known that about his son for years. Trevor was a four-year starter for his father at Stevens Point High School, a run that included 100 wins and back-to-back WIAA Division 1 state titles.
One moment that still gets brought up five years later happened early in Trevor’s freshman season.
The Panthers were scrimmaging at the end of practice and Scott Anderson wasn’t particularly pleased with his starters, even though they had a lead on the backups.
Naturally, Scott Anderson chewed out his point guard/son. Trevor jawed back and was punished by being demoted to the second group.
That lit a fire under Trevor, who ended up rallying his new team to victory.
“He hit a 3 at the very end to win it,” said Scott Anderson, who has led Stevens Point to three consecutive state titles. “He just kind of stared at me, like ‘What are you going to do now?’ It’s just kind of how he’s built.”
Scott Anderson admits his son can be persistent, and that trait was on full display during the spring after he brought up the idea of transferring to UW.
“We wanted him to think it through and really look at all the pros and cons, so we tried to talk about that for a while,” Scott Anderson said. “He stayed pretty persistent in where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do.”
Joining the Badgers is only the first step in Trevor’s plan, though. He doesn’t just want to be on the team, he wants to be a significant contributor at UW.
“When he goes after something, you’re going to have to take it from him, because he’s not going to give it, usually,” Scott Anderson said. “He’s very competitive. I hope that continues.”