Several of the best USF basketball alumni are teaming up this summer to play in The Basketball Tournament, a nationally televised five-on-five competition with a $2 million jackpot. But they need your help to qualify! Vote for Tampa Bulls here. If they win, you get a portion of the prize for voting.
We’ll be catching up with several of Tampa Bulls’ stars over the next few weeks, talking to them about The Basketball Tournament and their USF careers. First up is former Bulls forward Ron Anderson Jr.
How did you get started with Tampa Bulls?
We’ve all done a really good job of keeping in contact. We’ve all been in different countries, but we all follow each other, and we talk almost every day. It always felt like a big family while we were [at USF], so we wanted to continue that. Now, it’s an opportunity for us to go back and relive what it was like to be back on the same court.
How far can Tampa Bulls go? Is this a team that can win it all?
Absolutely. I don’t think that any of us would go into this saying that we don’t feel like it’s possible. One thing that I think people who have been supporters of the Bulls for a long time will be surprised about is the level of advancement we’ve made in our game since then. For me, that’s one thing I’m looking forward to— the supporters we had when we were all together, for them to be able to see me again, for us to be able to catch up, and for them to see how hard I’ve been working.
You mention that you’ve changed your game a bit since you’ve been in college. What’s something that you’ve been able to improve on?
When I was in college, I was in playing shape, but nowadays I’ve been able to shed all that extra weight I had when I first came to college. I’m quicker, I’m a lot more athletic.
You were part of what was undeniably the best team in USF history, the NCAA Tournament squad in 2012. What made that team so special?
The belief. The belief not just in yourself, but in everybody else. The way we ended my junior year, guys really didn’t take that too well. Coming back for my senior year, it was really important for me to not relive that experience. We started that summer. Everybody had the right mindset; we understood each other. It wasn’t always easy, but we benefitted from being able to overcome those obstacles.
What was the biggest obstacle that team had to overcome?
Really just believing in the one thing we were good at. Basketball is entertainment— everybody wants to score, everybody wants to put up big numbers. But that year, that team, we weren’t built like that. Some teams aren’t built like that, and they spend all their time trying to overcome that obstacle. But we were really good at defense, and we really believed that come conference play, that was going to be the one thing that could help us to grow and get to that next level. Everybody came out and was on the same page, and I think that was the one thing that got us to the tournament.
Was there a moment that season— maybe around the start of conference play— when you realized, “Wow, this is a team that can do damage in the Big East and beyond”?
I feel like the people who watched it started to realize that, but you have to understand that we believed that all season. We stayed the course, and we really believed in what we were headed towards.
That team developed the famous “root canal” identity on defense. When did that strategy and that attitude start?
We always knew we were capable of it. Playing defense starts with the want and the desire. We knew the group of guys that we had all didn’t want to be the one who was the reason why the other team was scoring. It started with that. You can look at growth many different ways over a season, but game in and game out, when you’re doing something that’s working, it’s kind of hard to say, “we want to change what we’re doing.”
To this day, that is the only USF team to win an NCAA Tournament game. How does it feel to be part of that history, of the best team in USF history?
People have asked me this in the past, and I’ll say this: just from my love of USF and what USF did for me, I hope that we are not the best team in USF history for very long. That’s something I’m very adamant about. I want to see the program make improvements; I want to see the program be the best they possible can, and I want them to do better than we did. When I left, I said I wanted this to be the start. I don’t want to be remembered.
To this day, I still think about that last game. I remember that game like it was yesterday. I’ll always remember it. I’ve used it to help me be in the position that I’m in now. It’s helped me to become a better player. For that, I’m grateful.
What does the program have to do to get back to that level?
Really look for guys that are really motivated to win. It’s different— I’m not sure, but I feel like AAU has changed things a little bit, and guys just wanna play for themselves. You’ve gotta get guys who play for the team, because unless you’ve got a team full of NBA prospects, like Kentucky, that’s the only way you’re gonna win.
When I think Ron Anderson Jr., I think of a specific play in 2012— that free throw in the final minute against Cincinnati that bounced all over the rim before going in and wound up winning USF the game. Could you take us through your thought process there— you’re going to the line, NCAA bid on the line, and you see that ball hit the rim?
You’ll probably think I’m crazy with my response. We had an assistant coach, Eric Skeeters, that used to get on me all the time. He told me, “You’re gonna have a moment when you’re gonna have to knock down two free throws. You gotta be ready for those two.” So at the time, he had said something to me on the side. So I’m kind of getting into it with him, trying to prove to him that I could make it rather than the tournament being on the line. It was like, an inside competition; they were all making jokes about it and I wanted to prove it to the team. And then afterwards I realized, “Oh man, I might’ve saved the season.”
RAPIDFIRE ROUND: What was your favorite moment of your USF career?
When they waited until the last second to call us [for the NCAA Tournament]. It was probably one of the best moments I’ve ever had.
I have to take a brief sidenote here— oh God, they really did wait until the last second. I remember sitting there, and they kept showing the team on TV, and I’m like, “They can’t show this team unless they’re getting in, right? They can’t do that to us.”
That’s what we were saying! Hugh had me convinced that they were doing that to try to embarrass us. I had no idea.
When you were sitting there, did you think you had done enough? Did you think they were about to call your name?
We hoped, but by the time they got to that point, it was pretty difficult to know what to think. We really had to watch the whole seeding.
Back to RAPIDFIRE: What’s on your pre-game playlist?
Ah... everything. New Kendrick just came out; I’m a big fan of it. New Drake came out, and he’s got a little something for everybody on that. You can never go wrong with Drake.
Favorite Kendrick and Drake albums?
Wow... honestly, I feel like this is Kendrick’s best. Drake... Take Care, maybe? Take Care.
Out of your USF teammates, who was the hardest worker?
AC was a gym rat. Vic was a gym rat too.
Aside from me, I would say Hugh.
Best dressed and worst dressed?
Best dressed, for sure, Blake Nash. Worst dressed... maybe me, man. I just wore basketball shorts and flip-flops most of the time.
That’s me too. I was superstitious about everything.
What’s an example of a superstition you had back in the day?
I had the same pregame routine every day, and I had the same pair of game socks. I forgot them once, and I don’t think I played too well that game.
Most entertaining on roadtrips?
Man, the whole team at different times. Maybe Toarlyn.
Those are my guys; I’ll take a pass.
You’re down one point in the final seconds of a game. Who do you want taking the last shot?
Whoever’s been hot that game.
In one sentence, what makes being a USF Bull so special?
The friendships and the family that I made, that I continued to have after I left.
What would you say to convince, say, a casual USF fan who knows nothing about TBT to tune in this summer?
It’s the best Bulls all in one. We’re five years older and five years better, so enjoy.
Let’s say you’re in a two-on-two tournament, and you get to pick one USF player to play with you. Who you taking?
I’d have to say Toarlyn. Toarlyn has been the one to really convince me to come back and start with TBT.
Last question: if you guys win this championship, what’s the first thing you’re doing with the prize money?
I’ll put it in the bank. I’ll save it for a little bit. It’s not going anywhere.