DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Ahkee Anderson, 10, of Greenport racing the ball upcourt for St. Patrick in a recent CYO game against Our Lady of the Hamptons.
Of all the statistics that Ahkee Anderson has put up, it is a vital statistic, perhaps, that is most impressive. He is 10 years old.
Watching the Greenport boy play basketball, one has to wonder how that is possible. How is it possible for a 10-year-old to play like he does? Not only that, but how does he play like that in his first season of organized basketball?
Is he a prodigy? An exceptionally quick learner?
Whether or not it is too much to call Anderson a prodigy can be debated, but his instincts on the basketball court cannot. The 4-foot-2 guard for the St. Patrick fifth-grade Catholic Youth Organization team turns heads and wows people with his uncanny court vision, his basketball maturity and unselfish play.
“It’s unbelievable,” said St. Patrick coach Bob Martin, who believes Anderson may be the best fifth-grade player in Suffolk County. “He has a certain basketball sense that you would be happy to have with a high school player.”
Rodney Shelby, the Greenport High School boys varsity assistant coach, first became aware of Anderson about a month ago when he heard talk about the talented young player. So, Shelby checked him out himself, and wasn’t disappointed.
“At 10 years old, he’s definitely legit,” Shelby said. “He’s got a good all-around game, a good head on his shoulders, uses both hands. At a young age, he shoots well, sees the floor. I just hope that he can keep on progressing and learning.”
Shelby, who compares Anderson to a young Ryan Creighton, the former Greenport great, said the best feature of Anderson’s game is his court awareness.
“It’s absolutely shocking because he’s only 10 years old,” said Crystal Anderson, Ahkee’s mother who used to play basketball for Greenport High School. Crystal said her son’s passing ability is “what has everybody so intrigued about him. He has such an ability at such a young age. Usually at this age, it’s all about shooting the ball.”
So, where did Ahkee Anderson get all this basketball know-how?
“He comes from a family of athletes,” Crystal Anderson said. “His uncles all play sports. I guess I’m the tomboy mom. I’m with him every step of the way.”
Ahkee Anderson wears uniform No. 23, but that has nothing to do with it being Michael Jordan’s old number. Actually, Anderson’s favorite NBA team is the Miami Heat, and his favorite player is Lebron James, not a bad player to style himself after.
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Ahkee Anderson, taking to the air for a layup, impresses observers with his court vision.
“That’s my team, and Lebron James is my idol,” said Ahkee, who will celebrate his 11th birthday on May 15. “I try to do what he does, and try to put it in my own style.”
Crystal Anderson said that when Ahkee was 3 years old, he would go with his father, Marcellus Shedrick, to a local basketball court and shoot around. But the television was an instructor, too.
“He’s such a Miami Heat fan, he’ll watch them and try to do the moves he saw on TV,” she said. “He’s like a sponge. He’ll watch something and then he’ll go out and practice it.”
Martin said he had never seen a young player like Anderson before, with such incredible body control that he can stop on a dime and make a reverse layup. “Each game there is always one play where we just go, ‘Wow, that’s just not right,’ ” said Martin.
Teammates have been advised to be on the alert when Anderson has the ball in his hands. A pass could come their way at any moment, so they had better be ready or they will have a basketball in their face.
With the smooth and composed Anderson getting his teammates involved, the undersized Cutchogue-based St. Patrick team has enjoyed a successful season. Anderson displayed his skills in St. Patrick’s final regular-season game recently against Our Lady of the Hamptons at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School. Early on, Anderson made a layup while being fouled, and sank his free throw for a conventional 3-point play. He swished a 15-foot jumper right before the buzzer ending the first quarter for a 10-0 lead that soon became 14-0. One of Anderson’s best highlights, not surprisingly, was a neat bounce pass to Joshua Santacroce.
Through three quarters, Anderson already had a double-double. With a couple of minutes remaining in the game, he made a steal to give himself a triple-double in the 37-23 victory that left St. Patrick with an undefeated regular season at 12-0.
“It just feels good to win,” Anderson said afterward.
Anderson played all but 78 seconds of the 28-minute game and totaled 24 points (1 point shy of his season-high), 13 rebounds, 11 steals, 3 assists (he would have had more if not for several missed layups), 3 turnovers, 3 personal fouls and 1 blocked shot (Anderson said he relishes blocking shots). He shot 10 for 19 from the field and 4 for 7 from the foul line.
Martin said it was an unusual game for Anderson. “He usually plays better,” the coach said.
For the regular season, Anderson averaged 15 points, 13 rebounds, 8 steals and 7 assists per game.
Anderson’s name is becoming known, thanks in part to a highlight video that Kyle Charters posted of him on YouTube. Charters, a former Greenport High School player, runs his own business, K and C Prospect Video, which produces sports videos, usually for high school athletes looking to send video to colleges.
Charters said that he was reluctant to video record Anderson last year when Crystal Anderson asked him to because he thought Ahkee might be too young for that sort of exposure. But Charters saw Anderson play, and on Jan. 16 he posted a video on YouTube that by Tuesday afternoon drew 422 views.
“When I went to see him play, I was just floored,” Charters said. “He’s so cerebral. He understands the way the game’s supposed to flow. … He sees the floor better than varsity kids. He’s such a good passer.”
So good, in fact, that Shelby has been monitoring his progress. Shelby said Anderson will play on his AAU team, the Boulevard Boys.
“He definitely can play,” Shelby said. “You would think he’s older than 10 years old. You would think he’s been playing organized basketball since he could walk, but he just really started playing.”
The video prompted comparisons to Jaylin Fleming. Two years ago the Chicago Tribune produced a video report about Fleming, who was a fifth-grader at the Beasley Academic Center in Chicago, with the heading, “The best 10-year-old hoops player in the U.S.?” The video shows Fleming, a phenomenal ball handler, dribbling two basketballs at the same time and weaving through a line of cones like a mini-Harlem Globetrotter.
“The things that are happening to Jaylin, he actually deserves, and I can be honest and say that he’s worked hard,” his father, John Fleming, said in the video, which has had over 5.3 million views. “You know, a lot of people are talented, but they don’t cultivate their gifts. They don’t take time to develop them. But he has committed himself and dedicated himself to the classroom first, and secondly with his skill. He has the gift to inspire. He never goes into anything halfway.”
Apparently, Anderson doesn’t, either. His mother said he is a straight-A student, as well as an exceptional football player. The emphasis is on academics.
“That’s my number one goal, to see him graduate with top honors,” said Crystal.
As for basketball, she said: “The only worries that I have is he’ll get overwhelmed with all the pressure and the expectations for him to do well. I want him to enjoy it. I don’t want him to feel that it’s a job.”
Ahkee said he is enjoying his first basketball season and is surprised at how well he has played. He said, “I’m going to try to get as [good] as I can, keep getting better every year.”