Nov. 11, 2009
SEATTLE - Hours before her first game as a Division I athlete, Jeneva Anderson heard her phone buzz and glanced at the text message that had just popped in.
The note had come from the Washington women's basketball team's other freshman, Amanda Johnson. The two players had been pinging messages back and forth all afternoon, expressing their nerves about their chances of playing in the Huskies' exhibition against Corban College.
Both players come from respected high school programs. Anderson matriculated from Lewis & Clark in Spokane, a basketball powerhouse that's won state championships and produced a cadre of collegiate talent, including one player (Briann January) who is in the WNBA. The last thing you might expect from prep hoopsters with such credentials is nerves at the thought of a preseason exhibition.
Not the case.
Despite her impressive prep resume, Anderson might be one of the more soft-spoken Huskies on the team. She makes it a point to listen closely to her teammates and coaches, and ask questions if she needs explanation. With so much on her plate in terms of athletics and class work, Anderson felt she would succeed by following the path of those who had been there before. This means asking players like Sami Whitcomb, who plays the same position (small forward) as Anderson, for advice on what to do in particular situations.
Nothing prepared Anderson, though, for the feeling of stepping onto the floor of Bank of America for the first time in a live situation. She felt the din of the crowd and made sure to peer over at her mom, who made the trip from Spokane. Otherwise, it was mostly a blur.
"I was shaking I was so nervous," Anderson said. "I never knew that I would get that much excitement out of hearing my name. I thought it would change from high school to college, but it was the same exact nervousness."
In the end, both players acclimated themselves just fine. After some initial hesitation, Anderson would score eight points in 16 minutes while Johnson drained a couple of 3-pointers, including a near buzzer-beater in the first half.
As for her role this season, Anderson knows she has a logjam of players at her same position. But that doesn't stop her from putting in the extra work to try and earn minutes on the floor. She credits the support network available within the program, as everyone from players to coaches has been there to shepherd her along. The freshman also praised Coach Tia Jackson for spelling out exactly what was expected of her.
"Coach told me to follow those players," Anderson said. "They're on the court for a reason. They know what they're doing, and they're experienced. So I follow them. They're doing something right (to get on the floor), so I'm trying to imitate that."
A competitive nature, however, means that Anderson also wants to do everything she can to push them in practice and become better. Even Jackson has noticed the sponge-like desire for basketball knowledge has started to pay off.
"She has some tough players in front of her," said Jackson. "She loves to say, `I'm learning from the effort out there by a Sami Whitcomb and a Sara Mosiman.' She really marvels after that. And to see her out there, she was falling right into their footsteps."
What originally drew Anderson to Seattle was that it felt comfortable, so it's natural she's acclimated quickly to life at UW. Before moving to Spokane with her family, Anderson was raised in Des Moines, Wash., where she lived until she was 13, so she still considers the Puget Sound area home.
Anderson is also glad she has someone to share this process with in Johnson. Originally, Anderson was the lone recruit signed in the 2008-09 season, but having Johnson there as another freshman has made fitting in much easier, and the hurdles manageable.
With everything to digest this season, Anderson joked she sometimes has to remind herself to keep it simple.
"It's just basketball," Anderson said with a grin. "It's what I've been doing for a while."