Anderson: 'We're going to play harder than anybody else you see'

Anderson: 'We're going to play harder than anybody else you see'

CHAMPAIGN — In this decade, the St. Thomas More boys' basketball team has two pieces of postseason hardware — a pair of regional championships. The last of those came in 2014, when none of the present-day Sabers were in high school.

Alex Anderson feels he has what it takes to lead STM's program to even greater heights. The Sabers' administrators agreed.

Anderson was introduced Monday as STM's newest hoops coach. He replaces Matt Kelley, who resigned in April after six years helming the club to spend more time with his family.

A 2012 University of Illinois graduate, Anderson's last two years saw him piloting the basketball team at La Salette, a private school in Georgetown.

The Lions are not IHSA-eligible, but Anderson guided them to a 45-13 record over two seasons that included triumphs against local schools such as Hoopeston Area, Schlarman, Judah Christian, Uni High, Cissna Park and Unity.

"They're set up to have success for years to come," Anderson said of his now-former team. "But things have to change in life. I saw this opportunity, and I thought it was tremendous for me personally, and I feel like I can bring a level of success to St. Thomas More that they deserve."

Anderson lives in Champaign, and the lengthy trip to Georgetown each day began to wear on the man who served four different Champaign Central basketball coaches as an assistant prior to taking over at La Salette.

Another appealing aspect of STM was its recent penchant for strong performances in a variety of sports. Anderson pointed out results in volleyball, soccer and football as indicators that the Sabers are a sleeping giant on the hardwood.

"When stuff like that happens, you know there's athletes there," Anderson said.

"I think there's definitely the foundation here to have a lot of success on the court."

Anderson will hit the sidelines in 2018-19 for a unit that went 11-17 last season and graduates four from its varsity roster. Anderson met with his new pupils Monday afternoon and was pleased with how his inaugural message was received.

"They were very attentive, which is awesome," Anderson said. "Them hearing the plan for summer, hearing the plan for moving forward and doing something different on the court than they've been doing, you could see the excitement."

With there being too little time to implement a system before a large slate of summer activity, Anderson said he'll spend less time pitting his boys against outside competition and more time teaching the Sabers how he'd like to see them compete.

"We're going to play fast, we're going to defend and we're going to play harder than anybody else you see," Anderson said. "I know that."

Anderson's transition gives him the opportunity to lead a team that can qualify for the IHSA postseason.

That's not to say Anderson didn't enjoy his run with La Salette, which brought the Lions to a third-place finish in the National Christian School Athletic Association tournament earlier this year. But he's ready to direct a crew to locales such as Peoria's Carver Arena, home to the 2018 state showcase.

"In coaching in the state of Illinois, you want a chance to go (to the state finals)," Anderson said. "And I think we have that here."