Patroness in the paint

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John McPoland
Sunday, April 27, 2008
— Jayme Anderson figured out early in her basketball career something that eludes even the greatest players: the closer you get to the basket, the easier it is to put the ball in the hoop.

In a spectacular career that included four varsity seasons at Janesville Parker High School, one season at Beloit College, two at UW-Eau Claire and a final season at Drake University, Anderson scored 2,986 points. A majority of those came on acrobatic drives to the basket and countless offensive rebounds that she turned into easy baskets.

More often than not, Anderson’s drives ended with her banging off the floor.

“That’s just how I always played,” Anderson said. “I was going to try to get as close to the basket as I could. That’s how I grew up playing. I always kind of thought it was funny in practice and pickup games to watch people firing up shots from long range.”

Anderson’s daring and fearless playing style earned her all-state honors at Parker, All-America honors in three straight NCAA Division III seasons and a spot on the recently announced D3hoops.com All-Decade team.

Those accomplishments have also earned Anderson a spot in the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame. She will be inducted Saturday, May 17, in ceremonies at the Rotary Gardens. Anderson, 28, will be the second-youngest inductee ever behind another Parker legend, Jennah Burkholder Hartwig, a 2001 selection.

“I’m pretty excited and surprised,” said Anderson, a third-grade teacher, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa. “I didn’t think I was old enough to get this (honor). I had a successful career. I was lucky to be surrounded by great coaches.”

Anderson’s road to basketball fame began, like it does for so many, in the family driveway. But it wasn’t her parents, Janet and Mark Anderson, who lit the spark.

Anderson’s grandfather, Bernard Anderson, was the person responsible for putting a hoop in the driveway and launching his granddaughter’s career.

“From the time I was little, I liked basketball,” Anderson said. “I was never one of those ballerina girls. I watched Jennah’s team win the state title (in 1993), and that got me excited.”

A budding basketball junkie, Anderson—nicknamed “The Worm”—was greatly inspired after watching a video about the career of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Anderson even modified one of Maravich’s training drills by dribbling a basketball while riding a bicycle.

Maravich had gained fame by dribbling a basketball out of a car window while his father, Press, drove.

Anderson also took the familiar road to Parker stardom, learning the game as a player on Tim McCullough’s youth traveling team.

But like many future Viking standouts, the 5-foot-10, buggy whip-thin Anderson—she weighed just 110 pounds as a sophomore—had to wait for her turn at Parker.

“I played 1 minute, 38 seconds (on varsity) my freshman year. I think I made one free throw,” Anderson said.

But her career was only beginning to take off.

As the team’s top reserve, Anderson averaged 7.7 points per game as a sophomore.

“Jayme came into our program with a tremendous amount of passion for the game of basketball,” Parker coach Tom Klawitter said. “That outweighs a lot of things.

“She knew her game and her limitations. She knew how to do the things that would make her successful.”

Junior season success

Anderson’s game began to blossom during a junior season that turned out to be one of the most memorable in Parker history. Anderson, who averaged 15 points a game, scored 24 in Parker’s 1996 sectional title victory over Racine Park and future UW recruit LaTonya Sims.

“I remember Jayme working harder than anybody else we ever had at Parker,” Klawitter said. “She loved to play the game. That was half the battle.

“She didn’t get on her teammates. She had a fire about her. She was a happy-go-lucky person off the court. Once she stepped on the court, she was a different person. She was pretty fierce.”

Anderson, along with teammate and locker partner Nicole Luchsinger, then led the Vikings to the WIAA Division 1 state title game. The Vikings even had perennial state powerhouse Milwaukee Washington on the ropes, leading 43-33 with 6:41 to go in front of a raucous crowd at the UW Field House. But the Purgolders outscored Parker 32-13 the rest of the way for a 65-56 victory.

“That was probably one of mine and Parker’s most memorable years,” Klawitter said. “We probably could have won the state championship if it weren’t for the last four minutes of that game. Those kids just played with so much heart.

“Those are the kind of years that are rewarding. They knew they were underdogs. But that team just had tremendous chemistry, especially between Nicole and Jayme. They really fed off each other.”

Senior year disappointment

The next year, Parker’s 22-2 team again ran into Sims in the sectional final. Racine Park, the eventual state champion, prevailed against a Parker team that had swept through an unbeaten Big Eight season.

That loss stung Anderson, who finished her Parker career with 941 points, more than almost any other.

“For quite a long time, that loss was a sore spot,” Anderson said. “I cried for many days after that senior season.”

An AP second-team all-state selection, Anderson somehow slipped under the radar of Division I coaches. Anderson herself may have been partially to blame.

“I didn’t call colleges,” she said. “I was a home body. I was afraid to leave Janesville.”

So Anderson, a top-flight student who earned the coveted WIAA Scholar/Athlete Award in 1997, enrolled at Beloit College.

Anderson took the Midwest Conference by storm, scoring a single-season school-record 441 points, earning first-team All-Midwest Conference honors and third-team Division III All-American honors as the Buccaneers grabbed their fourth straight berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

That season ended in a ferociously played 86-81 double-overtime loss to UW-Eau Claire in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Blugolds’ 2,400-seat Zorn Arena. Anderson scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds before fouling out in the first overtime.

Stone-cold meeting

But it was a moment on the court after the game that also changed Anderson’s basketball career.

Current University of Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone, then the head coach of the Blugolds, was blown away by what she saw of Anderson that night.

“She was a freshman phenom,” Stone said. “I shook her hand after the game and said, ‘You’re the best player at this level I’ve ever seen.’ She was a diamond in the rough.”

A few months later, Anderson made a phone call to Stone to inquire about the possibility of transferring to UW-Eau Claire.

Stone wasn’t about to turn down a player of Anderson’s talent.

Anderson, Stone and the Blugolds turned out to be the proverbial match made in heaven.

“Jayme scored so well in the lane,” Stone said. “She was so great off the dribble. She had an array of moves that got her to the basket. Once she got by there, she was uncontested. She had some special magic under the basket.”

Anderson led the Blugolds to a 23-5 record in 1998-99, scoring a single-season school-record 565 points. She shot an eye-popping 61.7 percent from the field and averaged 20.2 points per game. A first-team all-WIAC pick, Anderson also earned third-team All-America status for the second straight year.

She topped herself the following season, scoring 630 points and averaging 21.7 points per game as the Blugolds finished 28-1. Their only loss came during the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament to eventual national champion Washington University.

Anderson owns two of the top 10 single-season point totals in WIAC history, the fifth-highest single-season total for field goal attempts, the third-highest league total for made field goals in a single season and the eighth-highest single season field goal percentage.

In 57 career games at Eau Claire, Anderson scored 1,195 points, the eighth-highest total in school history. The other seven people in front of her all played at least 106 career games for the Blugolds.

Off to Drake

There’s no telling what a third season at Eau Claire would have been if Anderson had stayed.

But when Stone took a job at Division I Drake University, Anderson followed.

“Each time, Jayme moved, she took on a bigger challenge,” Stone said. “She left her best at every spot she stopped.”

NCAA transfer rules forced Anderson to sit out the 2000-2001 season.

“That was probably the hardest thing,” she said. “You can’t travel (with the team). You have to listen to the games on the radio. I did strength training, agility drills. I treated that year kind of like a boot camp.”

But the effort again paid off. Anderson beefed up her frame to 145 pounds and became a power forward for Stone’s Bulldogs.

In her one season of Division I basketball, Anderson averaged 12.4 points a game for a Drake team that had six players average eight or more points. She was also named the Missouri Valley Conference newcomer of the year.

The Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s tournament with a stunning 76-72 victory over a Baylor team that would win the national title two years later. The Bulldogs then lost to South Carolina to close out a 25-8 season.

“I was happy that Jayme could showcase her skills on the Division I level,” Stone said. “It was a difficult decision for her.

“I didn’t make her come (to Drake). That was her decision. She proved everybody wrong who said she couldn’t play at that level, and she earned their respect.”

It would be easy to say that Anderson, who came within seven field goals of reaching 3,000 points for her combined high schol and collegiate careers, was a gunner. But that’s hardly the case. She hit that lofty plateau by averaging just 12 shots a game.

Anderson also was more than just a shooter. She grabbed nearly 800 rebounds during her illustrious college career.

With her competitive basketball career behind her, Anderson still plays as often as she can in pickup games. She also fuels her need to compete by entering various running events, including some rather bizarre ones.

In February, Anderson finished first in the women’s division of a race up the 41-story Principal Building in Des Moines. She reached the top of the city’s tallest building in 5 minutes, 56 seconds.

The race up the skyscraper steps is sort of like a metaphor for Anderson’s climb through the college ranks, a journey she relishes.

“I never look back with regret except when it comes to my student loans,” Anderson said. “I’m happy with how things worked out.”

Last updated: 8:50 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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