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Local Sports

St. Francis junior, Landus Anderson, refuses to allow Erb's palsy to hinder his game

St. Francis junior guard refuses to allow Erb’s palsy to hinder his game

University of St. Francis men’s basketball coach Ryan Marks was in an enviable position after last season. Most of the roster that received significant playing time as the Saints finished 23-10 and made their first national tournament appearance in 20 years would return.

However, he had room for limited additions in the spring.

“We wanted to add a couple guys, and we wanted to add the right guys who would fit the personality of this team,” Marks said. “Landus (Anderson) was that.”

A muscular 6-foot-6 junior guard, Anderson is a regular guy, a contributor in multiple areas for the Saints (28-3), who are headed to the NAIA Division II National Tournament later this week in Branson, Missouri, as one of four No. 1 seeds in a 32-team field.

He has started 26 of the 27 games and has played and averages 22.2 minutes, 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.6 assists. He is shooting at a .442 clip from the floor, .345 from 3-point range and .800 from the free-throw line. In addition, he is a lockdown defender. Put it all together, and he is among the many reasons USF achieved the No. 1 national ranking late in the regular season.

Anderson would identify himself as a normal guy on the basketball floor, but from a fan’s perspective, he is anything but. He has Erb’s palsy, a neurological disorder that allows him only limited use of his right hand. Nerve damage occurred at birth, when a doctor had to take extraordinary measures to get his shoulders through the birth canal.

Despite that, Anderson grew up playing basketball in Florida. “I always wanted to play basketball, even when other kids were out playing tag or whatever,” he said.

He has the bloodlines for the sport. His father, Lindsey, played at Florida A&M; and his mother, Pamela, played at Florida State College of Jacksonville.

ROAD TO USF

Anderson may have been a Division I player if not for the Erb’s palsy. At that, a couple of D-Is showed interest in him out of high school in Melbourne, Fla. But he wanted to stay closer to home and played the last two seasons for Marks’ friend, Jeremy Shulman, the coach at Eastern Florida State, a successful junior college program.

“Jeremy’s team had a really good season last year, and I finally talked to him in May to congratulate him,” Marks said. “We shot the breeze a little. Then he asked me if I’m still recruiting. He said if I need a wing, he has one who is a good student and could be the perfect guy.

“He told me he had a lot of others look at him, but he cautioned me that he’s going to look a little different on the basketball floor. He said he would text me so I could see his highlights.”

Not long after that, Marks was standing in the parking lot of the Sullivan Center when Shulman sent the link. Marks watched on his phone, and watched some more. With every highlight, he moved the phone closer and closer to his face to get a better view, he was so awe-struck.

“I think I wound up hitting my nose,” he said. “I said, ‘This guy is doing all that with his left hand only?’ At the end of the web cast, I heard a commentator say the same thing. Landus was doing things with one arm most can’t do with two.”

Anderson, indeed, was a fit, the guy Marks wanted to round out his team. But first, more studying.

“I told myself I had to watch his productivity and not be swayed by how he did what he did,” Marks said. “The productivity was there, and he has high academic ability, too. He is studying criminal justice and wants to go to law school. He had a 4.0 GPA his first semester here.”

A GOOD FIT

It is not always easy for a transfer to fit into an established program, much less come in and earn immediate playing time with a team that was about 10 deep in returning regulars. But Anderson’s transition to St. Francis was smooth.

“Everyone likes him,” said USF senior forward llya llyayev, the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year. “He gets along well with everyone on the team, everyone on the other sports teams and in our school. He has a great personality.”

What about what he can do on the court?

“It’s amazing to me, still, how he is doing what he does,” Ilyayev said. “Coach (Marks) was driving me to the airport last spring and told me about him, and I was skeptical at first. But at the first open gym where I saw him, I could see he is an amazing player.

“Defensively, he has changed us. It’s crazy. Last year we did not have one lockdown guy. This year, Landus does that for us.”

“We have fun trying to light a fire under him,” said St. Francis senior center Jens Kennedy, joking with Anderson about his even-keeled nature.

Although Anderson was not sure at first about coming to a small college in Joliet to continue his basketball career, he has nothing but positive feelings about the experience.

“I kind of played out of position in junior college,” he said. “I was a 4. I’d pick and pop. I wanted to go somewhere the last two years where I would be happy. I’m happy I came here and could be back at my regular position, which is a guard.”

As for meshing with the Saints, Anderson said, “I made the transition here very easily. We’re a family. We’re all brothers. We hold each other accountable, but we also know we have each other’s backs.”

Marks has done his part in making things click for Anderson and all the Saints.

“Coach is the man,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how he does it. He makes you want to play hard for him. That was missing for me at juco.”

NO COMPLAINTS

Yes, Anderson has limited use of his right hand, but his contributions to the Saints are not limited, and he never will complain.

“My mom and grandma and dad raised me not to complain about what you don’t have. They said to be glad for what you do have,” he said.

In St. Francis’ exhibition game in late November at Notre Dame, at about the time Anderson saw snow for the first time in his life, he caught an elbow below the eye.

“I had an orbital wall fracture from that,” he said. “It’s what Derrick Rose had. I’ve been dying to play without the mask, but the doctor said I should play with it the remainder of the season. He doesn’t want me to get hit there again.”

Anderson missed a few games with the injury, and it took awhile to get accustomed to the mask. But he has done that and continued to produce.

“He has done an amazing job for his first year in our system,” Kennedy said. “I wasn’t surprised, though, that he was good. I had seen a lot of tapes on him and saw he could play. We learned right away never to underestimate him.”

“When practice or games start, it never crosses my mind that he’s different,” Marks said. “But when I see him not in the moment, I still don’t understand how he does it.

“The things he does offensively are unorthodox, and he is such a solid defender. He is an even-keeled guy so he is able to divorce himself from how it is going on the offensive end. He always goes all out defensively. He has an uncanny ability to get his hand on the ball. He is a lockdown one-on-one defender and is disruptive with his help defense.”

Anderson is a big fan of LeBron James, for more reasons that the obvious.

“It’s not how much LeBron scores,” he said. “It’s how he does the little things, the small things that contribute to the team.”

That’s something Anderson learned from a young age. Do what you can with what you are given to make your team better.

Marks, his coaching staff and Anderson’s teammates appreciate that to the hilt as they prepare for the national tournament.

Observers outside the program, meanwhile, continue to express amazement at an athlete who is unique and yet a consistent contributor on a winning team.

University of St. Francis men’s basketball coach Ryan Marks was in an enviable position after last season. Most of the roster that received significant playing time as the Saints finished 23-10 and made their first national tournament appearance in 20 years would return.

However, he had room for limited additions in the spring.

“We wanted to add a couple guys, and we wanted to add the right guys who would fit the personality of this team,” Marks said. “Landus (Anderson) was that.”

A muscular 6-foot-6 junior guard, Anderson is a regular guy, a contributor in multiple areas for the Saints (28-3), who are headed to the NAIA Division II National Tournament later this week in Branson, Missouri, as one of four No. 1 seeds in a 32-team field.

He has started 26 of the 27 games and has played and averages 22.2 minutes, 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.6 assists. He is shooting at a .442 clip from the floor, .345 from 3-point range and .800 from the free-throw line. In addition, he is a lockdown defender. Put it all together, and he is among the many reasons USF achieved the No. 1 national ranking late in the regular season.

Anderson would identify himself as a normal guy on the basketball floor, but from a fan’s perspective, he is anything but. He has Erb’s palsy, a neurological disorder that allows him only limited use of his right hand. Nerve damage occurred at birth, when a doctor had to take extraordinary measures to get his shoulders through the birth canal.

Despite that, Anderson grew up playing basketball in Florida. “I always wanted to play basketball, even when other kids were out playing tag or whatever,” he said.

He has the bloodlines for the sport. His father, Lindsey, played at Florida A&M; and his mother, Pamela, played at Florida State College of Jacksonville.

ROAD TO USF

Anderson may have been a Division I player if not for the Erb’s palsy. At that, a couple of D-Is showed interest in him out of high school in Melbourne, Fla. But he wanted to stay closer to home and played the last two seasons for Marks’ friend, Jeremy Shulman, the coach at Eastern Florida State, a successful junior college program.

“Jeremy’s team had a really good season last year, and I finally talked to him in May to congratulate him,” Marks said. “We shot the breeze a little. Then he asked me if I’m still recruiting. He said if I need a wing, he has one who is a good student and could be the perfect guy.

“He told me he had a lot of others look at him, but he cautioned me that he’s going to look a little different on the basketball floor. He said he would text me so I could see his highlights.”

Not long after that, Marks was standing in the parking lot of the Sullivan Center when Shulman sent the link. Marks watched on his phone, and watched some more. With every highlight, he moved the phone closer and closer to his face to get a better view, he was so awe-struck.

“I think I wound up hitting my nose,” he said. “I said, ‘This guy is doing all that with his left hand only?’ At the end of the web cast, I heard a commentator say the same thing. Landus was doing things with one arm most can’t do with two.”

Anderson, indeed, was a fit, the guy Marks wanted to round out his team. But first, more studying.

“I told myself I had to watch his productivity and not be swayed by how he did what he did,” Marks said. “The productivity was there, and he has high academic ability, too. He is studying criminal justice and wants to go to law school. He had a 4.0 GPA his first semester here.”

A GOOD FIT

It is not always easy for a transfer to fit into an established program, much less come in and earn immediate playing time with a team that was about 10 deep in returning regulars. But Anderson’s transition to St. Francis was smooth.

“Everyone likes him,” said USF senior forward llya llyayev, the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year. “He gets along well with everyone on the team, everyone on the other sports teams and in our school. He has a great personality.”

What about what he can do on the court?

“It’s amazing to me, still, how he is doing what he does,” Ilyayev said. “Coach (Marks) was driving me to the airport last spring and told me about him, and I was skeptical at first. But at the first open gym where I saw him, I could see he is an amazing player.

“Defensively, he has changed us. It’s crazy. Last year we did not have one lockdown guy. This year, Landus does that for us.”

“We have fun trying to light a fire under him,” said St. Francis senior center Jens Kennedy, joking with Anderson about his even-keeled nature.

Although Anderson was not sure at first about coming to a small college in Joliet to continue his basketball career, he has nothing but positive feelings about the experience.

“I kind of played out of position in junior college,” he said. “I was a 4. I’d pick and pop. I wanted to go somewhere the last two years where I would be happy. I’m happy I came here and could be back at my regular position, which is a guard.”

As for meshing with the Saints, Anderson said, “I made the transition here very easily. We’re a family. We’re all brothers. We hold each other accountable, but we also know we have each other’s backs.”

Marks has done his part in making things click for Anderson and all the Saints.

“Coach is the man,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how he does it. He makes you want to play hard for him. That was missing for me at juco.”

NO COMPLAINTS

Yes, Anderson has limited use of his right hand, but his contributions to the Saints are not limited, and he never will complain.

“My mom and grandma and dad raised me not to complain about what you don’t have. They said to be glad for what you do have,” he said.

In St. Francis’ exhibition game in late November at Notre Dame, at about the time Anderson saw snow for the first time in his life, he caught an elbow below the eye.

“I had an orbital wall fracture from that,” he said. “It’s what Derrick Rose had. I’ve been dying to play without the mask, but the doctor said I should play with it the remainder of the season. He doesn’t want me to get hit there again.”

Anderson missed a few games with the injury, and it took awhile to get accustomed to the mask. But he has done that and continued to produce.

“He has done an amazing job for his first year in our system,” Kennedy said. “I wasn’t surprised, though, that he was good. I had seen a lot of tapes on him and saw he could play. We learned right away never to underestimate him.”

“When practice or games start, it never crosses my mind that he’s different,” Marks said. “But when I see him not in the moment, I still don’t understand how he does it.

“The things he does offensively are unorthodox, and he is such a solid defender. He is an even-keeled guy so he is able to divorce himself from how it is going on the offensive end. He always goes all out defensively. He has an uncanny ability to get his hand on the ball. He is a lockdown one-on-one defender and is disruptive with his help defense.”

Anderson is a big fan of LeBron James, for more reasons that the obvious.

“It’s not how much LeBron scores,” he said. “It’s how he does the little things, the small things that contribute to the team.”

That’s something Anderson learned from a young age. Do what you can with what you are given to make your team better.

Marks, his coaching staff and Anderson’s teammates appreciate that to the hilt as they prepare for the national tournament.

Observers outside the program, meanwhile, continue to express amazement at an athlete who is unique and yet a consistent contributor on a winning team.

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