USF Athletics

For Bulls' forward Ron Anderson Jr., playing college basketball has never felt so good.

A 320-pound guy in high school, Anderson gradually cut down his weight over the past two years and now stands at a lean 255 pounds. On top of that, he spent last season on the outside looking in, as he was forced to sit on the bench the entire year due to NCAA transfer rules (from Kansas State). Now, Anderson is in the best shape of his life and he's making his presence known at USF.

"Physically and mentally, he really prepared himself for this year so it wouldn't be a step backwards for him," said University of South Florida men's basketball coach Stan Heath. "While we were gone traveling on the road, he spent time with our strength and conditioning coach. He was in the weight room and he was doing extra sprints and extra running."

Basically, the Bulls have gotten a new Ron Anderson Jr. who is more agile, and better equipped to endure the long haul of the season. He's averaging 9.8 points a game and is also the team's leading rebounder (averaging 7.7 a game). The progression that he's shown is certainly a major bright spot for the program.

"I feel faster and more explosive," Anderson said. "It works both mentally and physically for me. If I can see the physical change, mentally it will put me in the right mindset and allow me to approach the game the correct way."

Getting to this point hasn't been easy for Anderson. Not only has he dedicated a great deal of time to running and training in the weight room, but he also didn't eat any pork or steak for two years. He said his diet during that time consisted mostly of baked or grilled chicken and rice.

"The best thing for Ron has been his conditioning because his eating habits have changed and he's been able to play longer stretches and not get tired," said assistant coach Eric Skeeters. "He was still pretty athletic before, but the weight would hold him down."

Not being able to play in any games last season was difficult for Anderson, but he used that time wisely and as a result, became a better player with an increased knowledge for the game. He was able to see the game from the coaches' standpoints and pick up on the little things that are needed to win games. When Augustus Gilchrist missed time last season with a sprained ankle, Skeeters said it was Anderson who played a vital role in Toarlyn Fitzpatrick's development as he filled in as the starter. Anderson was defending him during every practice.

"He used practice as his games. He was always ready to practice," Heath said. "He brought great energy and played at a high level. I like the fact that he's taken the role of a guy who talks to his teammates and gives leadership out there on the court."

Heath and his coaching staff have been very pleased with Anderson's production so far this season. The 6'8" forward has another year of eligibility at USF after this season and considering how far he's come over the past few years, it will be interesting to see how much more he can elevate his game during his time spent here. Now that he's in the best shape he's ever been in, Anderson is focused on becoming a more complete player and keeping his teammates motivated down the stretch.

"He's one of the hardest workers," said Skeeters. "His dad was in the NBA, so he understands what it takes day-in and day-out. He's going to be a guy that a lot of people remember here for his input on the program."