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LEXINGTON — John Hardin junior guard Patrick Anderson was a bystander during last year’s KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament. He traveled with the team, but he was in street clothes, relegating him to basically being a cheerleader from the bench.
It was a disappointing end to a season which was delayed by injury. A shoulder injury in the Class 5-A state semifinal loss to Bowling Green caused him to miss the start the season. After playing in 11 games, Anderson sat out the final 16 games with another shoulder injury.
No Bulldog was more excited about John Hardin earning a return trip to the state tournament than Anderson. Instead of watching from the bench, this was Anderson’s opportunity to get the experience he missed with last year’s team.
“It’s real special,” Anderson said. “I’ve always been a UK fan. I’ve always cheered for UK, so to play on that floor, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a second chance.”
Anderson, who was able to share this experience with his twin sister Patrice, a John Hardin cheerleader, didn’t waste his chance.
Anderson had a solid debut on the famed floor he grew up dreaming of playing on. He scored eight points to go along with three steals, one rebound and one assist in John Hardin’s 79-69 victory over Fleming County in the first round.
But like he was given another chance to play in the state tournament, his second opportunity was a breakout performance. He scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including going 3-for-5 behind the 3-point arc. He also had four rebounds, three steals and one assist. The most amazing statistic might have been the number of turnovers he had in 32 minutes – zero.
Not to mention Anderson was assigned to guard one of the best players in the state tournament in Montgomery County senior Omar Prewitt after teammate Keon Williams picked up two fouls. Prewitt ended up with only 11 points — 12 below his average.
The Bulldogs ended up falling to Montgomery County, 66-57 in the quarterfinals, but Anderson’s performance gives John Hardin’s fans hope for the future.
“Patrick had a great game, but he’s been doing that all year long,” Wells said.
John Hardin will lose point guard Brandon Price, the leader of this year’s team, to graduation and Anderson, who scored a career-high 27 points earlier this season, is the heir apparent. This proves he’s ready to step into this role, just like he did when Price missed a stretch of games because of a sprained ankle.
Some players are born to lead, and Anderson is one of those. He has immense talent, but it’s overshadowed by his down-to-earth demeanor. Before leaving the football facility or the gym, Anderson shakes each coach’s hand and says thank you. That’s the type of person any coach would want in control of his team.
Just as Anderson matured as a leader on the football field this season, guiding the Bulldogs to a 13-1 record, he will do the same on the hardwood with John Hardin in search of a new leader without Price, a three-year starter.
“I think Keon and Patrick will make us go even harder,” John Hardin sophomore guard Elijah Smith said. “This is a horrible feeling. I think we’ll be motivated after having this experience. We have good players coming back. We want to get back here. Keon and Patrick will push us.”
Anderson talked about getting back in the gym as soon as the Bulldogs returned home. He didn’t make any guarantees, understanding how difficult it is to do. Anderson knows there are no shortcuts to get to this level, but through hard work and dedication, your chances increase. He’s motivated to get a third crack at the state tournament.
Maybe the third time could be the charm for Anderson and the Bulldogs.
Chuck Jones is the sports editor for The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.