Taking care of business against NIU


Photo:Tim Reuter/Iowa State Daily

Guard Jake Anderson moves the ball around a Texas Southern opponent during the game on Sunday. Anderson lead the team in rebounds with a total of 10.

Chris Cuellar

To this day, Jake Anderson doesn’t know why.

Iowa State’s senior guard doesn’t know why he was dismissed from Northern Illinois after three award-winning seasons, or why NIU coach Ricardo Patton ultimately decided to release him from his scholarship.

The Chicago native graduated from NIU in the summer 2010. But once he was removed from the Huskies’ roster, Anderson made the move to Iowa State — 300 miles west of his old school to play his final year of eligibility.

He doesn’t know why he had to leave behind friends and a town he’d grown to love. But now that he’s averaging 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Big 12’s Cyclones, it doesn’t matter why.

“It’s in the past — I’m a Cyclone right now,” Anderson said. “The only thing I really miss are my friends there. I got a lot of love from that community, and my friends that were also my teammates.”

Anderson’s new squad will meet his old one on Monday, Jan. 3 as Northern Illinois (4-7) travels to Ames for a 7 p.m. tip-off in Iowa State’s (12-2) final non-conference game of the season.

The teams are moving in different directions, with the Cyclones winning six-straight games with a young, potent offense while the Huskies are mired in mediocrity. They’ve dropped three out of their last four games, including a 36-point beatdown at the hands of a Big 12 foe, No. 10 Missouri.

Leaving Northern Illinois has been a spot of mystery for Anderson and Husky fans, as typically a player with 75 career starts isn’t just removed from a roster without some kind of issue.

In the April 13 edition of Northern Illinois’ student newspaper, the Northern Star, it was reported three Husky players would be transferring and that Anderson’s departure from the program wasn’t a mutual decision.

“I think anybody would be disappointed by being dismissed from anything,” Anderson said before starting practice at the Sukup Basketball Facility. “That’s just the type of business this is. We’re in a business now, even though you’re a student-athlete it’s still a business.”

In a reported meeting at the end of the season with Patton, Anderson revealed his last conversation with the coach.

“[Patton] asked me what my plans are for next year. I said ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘What are your plans for next year?’ I said, ‘Nothing, graduate and go to grad school [and play my final year],’ and he said, ‘Well that’s good because we’re not going to have you back next year.’ Then I said ‘OK.’ There was no handshake and that’s the last time I ever talked to him.” – Northern Star

Anderson said he still hasn’t spoken with Patton and that he doesn’t keep in contact with many people from Northern Illinois.

Patton failed to return phone calls from the Iowa State Daily.

The Mid-American Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2008, Anderson averaged 13.2 points per game in his three seasons of action in DeKalb, Ill. His numbers dropped off his final season, as he became the second scoring option in Patton’s scheme.

Cue Xavier Silas.

The 6-foot-5-inch Husky guard from Austin, Texas is averaging 24.5 points per game as the lone scoring option in Northern Illinois’ offense this season. Anderson says he definitely doesn’t speak with the nation’s third leading scorer.

“This past season, I was told to take a back seat to Xavier Silas,” Anderson said. “Coach Ricardo Patton told me that he had his pro here and that he didn’t need me to do all the things I had done in the past. I accepted the role because I thought it would help us win games. I just followed orders. If I didn’t, something like this would have happened earlier. Patton betrayed me.” – Northern Star

Still looking for an interesting storyline for this reunion? There isn’t a revenge angle or a search for vindication. Anderson knows what’s at stake against his old team, but he’s out to do things in the same workman-like way ISU coach Fred Hoiberg has praised since the first day of practice.

“It’s just another game,” Anderson said. “When I got here, my focus was just to become a better basketball player. A better student. I just want to help this team get back on the winning track. That’s it.”

Northern Illinois’ loss is Iowa State’s gain, as the 6-foot-2-inch guard ranks 75th nationally in rebounding and has two double-doubles to his name.

“Jake has been phenomenal,” Hoiberg said of the oldest player on his inexperienced squad. “Every day he’ll come into my office and say ‘Coach, what more can I do?’ He’s such a refreshing person to be around. He brings it every day and every practice. He’s been awesome.”

As for what will take place with the other nine players on the floor, it could be a run and gun battle as the Cyclones are averaging 78.1 points per contest and Northern Illinois allowing 78.4 per game.

Anderson has been guarding the opponent’s best player all season, and a face-off with Silas could release some of the tension Iowa State’s senior has pent up as he sighs, looking for the right thing to say about his old school.

“It’s business,” Anderson said succinctly, with a smile on his face.

The last time Iowa State and Northern Illinois met was Jan. 4, 1971, nearly 40 years ago to the date of this match-up. The all-time series is tied at 2-2.