UK Athletics Photo
By LARRY VAUGHT
A lot of University of Kentucky basketball fans, especially younger fans, probably don’t know who Dwight Anderson was.
He didn’t play on a national championship team or even a Final Four team at UK. He didn’t make any All-American teams. He didn’t even make it through his sophomore season before transferring to USC over some disciplinary issues.
But when the Dayton, Ohio, star picked Kentucky to play his college basketball, it was a huge deal. The 6-3 guard known as “The Blur” because of his speed averaged a triple-double — 38 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists per game his senior year — and was the nation’s No. 1 player. In his time, he was as big a deal as Rex Chapman or John Wall.
He died Saturday at age 59 and it made me remember the first time I met him in person. It was at the 1978 NCAA Tournament when he came to watch the Cats beat Michigan State and a rising star named Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Kentucky went on to win the national title and Anderson was sure he would lead UK to another one.
He had some amazing moments early in his freshman season:
— Anderson scored 17 points in a victory over No. 8 Syracuse.
— The next game was against Notre Dame in Freedom Hall and he got 17 points again but it was his dunk over 6-9 Orlando Woolridge that ignited a 25-11 UK run to win the game that everyone remembered.
— Maybe the game I remember the most is when UK was down 66-60 to No. 5 in Rupp Arena with 31 seconds to go in overtime. Anderson got a layup and on the inbounds pass “faked” a shove from a Kansas player that got called and put him at the foul line. He missed both free throws but got the ball back and got fouled again. This time he made both. On the next inbounds pass, he stole the ball, spotted an open Kyle Macy and Macy hit the 15-footer to tie the game. Kansas called timeout with :03 left in overtime but had no timeouts. Macy hit the technical free throw to win the game and to this day that overtime finish was the loudest I’ve ever heard a Rupp Arena crowd.
Anderson later had four straight 20-point game — something no other UK freshman did until Alex Poythress duplicated that feat in 2012. Anderson averaged 13 points, a freshman record, and shot 51 percent from the field.
But midway of the sophomore year, he left for USC and said assistant coach Leonard Hamilton “asked” him to transfer. He had a solid career, got drafted but never made it in the NBA due to his drug and alcohol addiction that eventually left him homeless at one time.
Former UK teammate Dirk Minniefield helped Anderson find the support he needed with John Lucas’ rehabilitation program. John Lucas is a former NBA player and father of new UK assistant coach Jai Lucas.
Anderson’s road to recovery was featured in a documentary in 2015 — “The Blur: The Dwight Anderson Story.”
Former Cats Pause publisher/owner Oscar Combs posted on Twitter that Anderson is perhaps the “most gifted athlete ever” to play basketball at Kentucky. Those of you too young to have seen him play or remember him probably think that might be a stretch. Those of us who watched him play, though, know Combs could be right. Anderson was just that good.