Next step for Anderson is Down Under
When Anderson started at Yamhill-Carlton High School, his dream was to play football, but Anderson also played AAU basketball, though he said he didn’t take it seriously at first.
Coming from such a small town, Anderson said there was little competition at the basketball level, so he had to go elsewhere to take his game — and competition — more seriously.
Anderson played both football and basketball at Yamhill-Carlton High School from 2004-08. He went on and played football at Oregon State from 2008-09. After not seeing playing time with the Beavers, he transferred to Linfield where he played football and basketball 2010-2012, but decided give up football and focus on basketball.
Anderson finished his collegiate basketball career at Eastern Oregon University and is currently playing for the Wagga Wagga Basketball Association in Australia.
“My parents really sacrificed a lot to help me expand my basketball potential,” Anderson said. “They would drive me up to Portland all the time so that I could play better competition. I really appreciate it, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them.”
As Anderson grew, he took chances and played all sports, but said he found a greater passion for football, and his basketball dream began to fade.
Anderson said as he began to realize that football came naturally to him, as basketball did, and his dreams began to gravitate toward a college football career.
While at Yamhill-Carlton, Anderson was the Tigers’ quarterback, and he grew better with age.
Anderson finished his football career as a four-year letterman, earning first-team all-state and Cowapa League Player of the Year honors as a senior. He threw for 2,992 yards and 40 touchdowns during his football career.
It wasn’t until Anderson had the itch to play basketball again, when things began to change.
Deciding his future
When Tigers basketball coach, Gary McCulloch first came across Anderson, McCulloch said he noticed an impressive athletic prowess from Anderson and said it didn’t take much to convince him to also play basketball.
“He’s one of those players don’t get to come across and coach very often,” McCulloch said of his former player. “He was everything you could want. A quality player and a quality person. He was just a stud. So good.”
Anderson said he is grateful to have come across McCulloch in his life. Anderson said it was McCulloch that helped build his confidence and belief as a basketball player.
“I loved playing for him. It was a great experience,” Anderson said. “He and I are very close now, and there’s nothing bad you can say about him. He’s a great person, and I was lucky to be around him as a young kid.”
Anderson said the one lesson he learned from McCulloch that he still keeps with him is to always find the positive in the most negative situations.
Anderson came out of his shell on the basketball court — he was a letter-winner in the sport his junior and senior season — but the fire to continue with football was still strong. He walked on to Oregon State as a quarterback in 2008 and made the team. He was a redshirt for the 2008 season and was used primarily as a scout and practice squad (greyshirt) member in 2009.
During his days at Oregon State, Anderson realized his dream of becoming the starting quarterback for the Beavers was diminishing fast, so he decided to transfer. He went from Division I to Linfield, a Division III program.
For Anderson, it was the decision that changed everything.
It was at Linfield where Anderson reconnected with Larry Doty, the long-time basketball coach of the Wildcats, for the second time. Doty said he recruited Anderson in high school, but knew Anderson was focused on football.
When Anderson was preparing to transfer out of Oregon State, Doty said he got a call from Larry Barnett, the former basketball coach and athletic director at Yamhill-Carlton, saying Anderson expressed interest in playing basketball in addition to football.
“I was excited,” Doty said. “He was a great kid who could really play. He took a lot of shots and didn’t miss many of them. He just had that balance of being a great player and great person.”
Doty encouraged Anderson to come out for basketball, and he did.
Doty said what impressed him most about Anderson was his ability to balance both sports at a high level.
“He’d go out for a full day of spring (football) practice, then come in on time, for basketball,” Doty said. “He was a really dedicated athlete.”
After trying to balance both sports in his first year with Linfield (2009), Doty said Anderson made the decision to give up football and concentrate solely on basketball.
Anderson said his teammates on the basketball team were special, and said he saw a special bond with the team that he didn’t see with football.
“I went to Linfield to play football,” Anderson said. “But the guys on the team, I just really connected with them at the time, and coach Doty gave me a sense of opportunity that I didn’t have. So I decided to commit to basketball.”
Just like that, Anderson was on to a new path.
It was during Anderson’s final season at Linfield (2011-12) that his basketball potential peaked. Anderson averaged 21 points in 32 minutes per game. Anderson had the highest shooting percentage on the team at 48 percent from the field and shot 42 percent from 3-point range. Anderson also shot 78 percent from the free throw line. He also led the Wildcats with 170 rebounds.
Anderson’s final game with the Wildcats was Feb. 18, 2012, an 80-67 loss to Puget Sound. Anderson led the team with 26 points. He also finished with five rebounds.
As his basketball skill branched out, so did his relationships on the team. Anderson grew close to former Linfield basketball star, Erik Olson.
Anderson said after his first year of basketball with the Wildcats, he made the decision to focus on a career in professional basketball.
That’s where Olson comes in.
Olson, a 2009 Linfield graduate, went overseas and played basketball for the Falkirk Fury of Scotland. The Fury won the Scottish Cup and Olson was named MVP of the league. He also played in Denmark and Germany.
While the two never played together with the Wildcats, Olson knew of Anderson through Doty. Olson gave Anderson’s name and highlight video to scouts.
Anderson said he knew other players that went overseas to play professionally after college and didn’t have success. Anderson said the lack of success from others drove him to be better and believe he could make it in the professional circuit.
“I knew guys, friends, on past teams that went over and played,” Anderson said. “They didn’t have success, and ended up right back (in Oregon), but I believe I can make it and have success.”
After he earned his degree from Linfield and finished basketball, Anderson said he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, but said the passion to keep playing basketball was still strong.
As no phone calls came, Anderson said he prepared to put the sneakers away for good, and that’s when it finally happened.
The voice on the other end was Isaac Williams, head basketball coach at Eastern Oregon University. Williams said he was familiar with Anderson and his skill set. He said he was also familiar with Anderson’s collegiate eligibility. Because he transferred out of Oregon State without ever playing a game, or going above a redshirt, the NAIA allowed him one term of athletics eligibility, and Williams wanted Anderson in La Grande.
“Zach’s situation was brought to my attention by several coaches at the Division II level that were interested in his situation,” Williams said. “He was looking for a quarter school to play with after he knew he was going to have to leave Linfield.”
Williams said there was a large group of interested coaches, but when they learned that Anderson could only play on a quarter system, the list got considerably smaller.
Williams recalls making the drive out to Yamhill-Carlton to scout Anderson while he was in high school, and said he lost track of Anderson once he went to Oregon State. Williams picked back up on Anderson once he went to Linfield.
“I scout the Northwest Conference often,” Williams said. “His name popped up at one point while he was there, and he had quite the reputation from other teams as a shooter and scorer.”
When both sides began a dialog, Williams admitted he was hesitant to add a player for one term, something the program had never done before. Williams was concerned the addition of Anderson would compromise the Mountaineers’ already-developed chemistry.
Williams said it was when Anderson came out for his visit that Williams warmed up to the idea.
“I just really came to like him as a person,” Williams said. “Everyone knew he was a good player, but it was really his unique personality.”
Anderson made his Eastern Oregon debut Dec. 14, 2012 against No. 12-ranked Southern Oregon. Anderson played 11 minutes and had one rebound. The Mountaineers lost 72-68, their first loss of the season.
Eastern rebounded from that game to win 12 straight and become the No.1-ranked team in the nation. The Mountaineers finished the season 28-5.
Anderson had his breakout performance Dec. 22, 2012 at home vs. No. 21-ranked Northwest University, a 77-63 win for the Mountaineers. Anderson was the co-leader with 19 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
In his final run in college basketball as a member of the Mountaineers, Anderson played in 19 games and scored a total of 121 points coming off the bench.
Anderson helped the Mountaineers reach the postseason. The Mountaineer’s entered the Cascade Conference tournament as the No. 8-ranked team in the country. Eastern Oregon needed to win one of two games in order to play for the NAIA national championship.
“It was a great experience for me,” Anderson said. “I only got to play for that winter team, and it was enough. I just wanted to play basketball.”
The Mountaineers beat Oregon Institute of Technology in the first round 77-75, which punched their ticket to the national title game.
Anderson added nine points, two rebounds and a steal in the win over Oregon Tech. Something Anderson said he’ll never forget.
“It was fantastic, the whole experience,” Anderson said. “We got to be part of a big ceremony, and to see the people of La Grande that excited was awesome.
The Mountaineers played Midland University in Point Lockout, Mo. on March 6. Midland beat Eastern Oregon 77-53. Anderson played 17 minutes, and finished with 11 points and four rebounds.
Anderson said the loss didn’t stick with him because he was grateful to have the opportunity to play postseason basketball, something he never did at Linfield.
A new journey
Anderson was scouted by overseas teams while at Linfield, and with the playoff experience, officially received a semi-pro contract from John Norman, coach of the Wagga Wagga Heat from the Wagga Wagga Basketball Association in Australia.
Anderson said Norman and the Heat were looking for a tall and accurate outside shooter, and said Olson, who currently plays for the Heat, immediately thought of Anderson.
“Erick really hyped me up over there,” Anderson said. “Between a combination of my film and what Erick told them, I guess they really liked me. But this couldn’t have happened without him.”
Anderson said this opportunity is important to keeping his dream of playing basketball alive.
Anderson left for Australia on March 18 and is signed to a seven-month contract with the Heat. Anderson said he thinks if he can do well the Heat will have him back.
If not, just as Olson did, Anderson said he is willing to play for a new league and would try to move up.
For the next seven months, Anderson will live with a host family, but the family has a separate side house on their property where Anderson will stay.
The league also pays for Anderson to have transportation. He also receives a weekly stipend for his work with the team. Anderson said he expects to play a lot of minutes because the team is in need of scoring.
“They just want me to shoot the three ball,” he said.”
Anderson said if basketball doesn’t work out, he hopes to remain in Australia and attempt to start a new chapter, but is unsure what that would be.
Anderson has traveled more than 7,000 miles to keep his dream alive, but said he’ll always remember Carlton.
“Living in such a small town and community, I’ll remember that your everyday actions make a difference,” Anderson said. “It’s important as I try to do that in a new place.”