On Sports: Anderson Sets Record, Pace in "Sweet 16" Drive Mike Field ------------------- Staff Writer Last year, when the division championship-bound women's basketball team was in Manhattan to play New York University, the entire team got an opportunity to go to a Broadway show. They chose Miss Saigon, the Vietnam war-era heartwrencher of personal sacrifice and love eternal. For freshman Julie Anderson, it was the perfect choice. "I sat and cried through the whole thing," she recalls with a laugh. "Of course, I'm the one who cries just listening to the CD of Les Miserables." Meet Julie Anderson, the starting sophomore forward who leads the Blue Jays in points scored and in shots blocked, who has set a new team season record for successful rebounds (290 and counting), and who pushed the Jays' single game rebound record to 20, then 21, then 23 before this season was half over. She is also the one who plays the game with absolute concentration and complete dedication, the player who, to turn a sports clich‚, is all heart. "Julie is very intense, very aggressive under the boards," says Jen Hoover, Hopkins Sports Information director. "There will be six people grouped together under the net, and suddenly Julie will just rise up from among the crowd. She is 100 percent focused on the game and brings a lot of intensity to the team. She is what I would call a very emotional player." She is also what many recognize as a very talented player. Last year, as a freshman reserve player on a very talented team, the 5 foot 10 inch Anderson managed to set the single season Blue Jays record with 263 rebounds. And the best, all agree, is still ahead, as she continues to grow and mature as a player. "We pride ourselves in the development of players over a four-year period," says head coach Nancy Blank, now in her 10th season at Hopkins. Blank came to Hopkins from a nine-year stint as head coach at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. She took over a Blue Jays team rife with possibilities, including membership in the newly formed UAA conference, but a team with little in the way of past successes. "Before I came they were 2-21 and had never had a winning season," Blank says. "One of the first things we saw we needed to do was to start aggressively recruiting talented players." Julie Anderson is just the kind of talent that Blank and her staff have proved so capable of finding and wooing to Baltimore. "I heard about Julie initially through a scouting service from the summer camps," Blank says. "We started contact during her junior year, and in her senior year we went to see her play." That play was solid and skillful, and Julie's West Chester, Pa., team was headed for a championship season. Yet for all that, Julie was not the focus of attention. "I had been playing with the same group of athletes since seventh and eighth grade, when we had a truly phenomenal team that never lost a game," she says. "In high school it was essentially the same group, and they were all really good. Two of the girls are now serious Olympic prospects in field hockey; another, Payton Black, was recruited by Duke and is playing Division I basketball." Somehow in the shuffle, Julie got a little lost. "Julie was a steal from a recruiting standpoint," recalls Coach Blank. "She was playing in the shadow of her teammate who was a Division I prospect. But she was playing well, and we were able to appreciate that. We feel like we stole her from the Division I hounds." Anderson is quick to disclaim any suggestions of exceptionality. "I have some athletic ability, but until college, basketball wasn't my main thing," she says. A gymnast from age 6 until seventh grade, Julie had dabbled in just about all the team athletics, playing volleyball, lacrosse and softball, in addition to basketball, before coming to Hopkins. In fact, American University even offered her a scholarship--to play volleyball. "I was looking for the academic schools I wanted. I wasn't looking to play basketball," says Anderson, who recently changed her major to political science and public health. "But when Coach Blank recruited me it was really appealing. I knew I didn't want a state school, and the option of UAA play was very enticing. We do a lot of traveling, and I like that." Recently, the team spent four days in Chicago, waiting for the Baltimore airport to reopen after the blizzard of '96. "We did drills and a lot of practicing, but that was about it," Anderson says. "The coach keeps a pretty close watch on us when we're away." Away or at home, basketball requires a tremendous commitment of time, perhaps even more than most other varsity sports. "It's a long season because it stretches out over two semesters," Coach Blank says. "We've been at it since October--and there was pre-season conditioning prior to that--and if the team is successful, we'll continue into spring. Last year, we went well into March." "We're almost like a sorority, we spend so much time together," Anderson says of her teammates. "We have two-and-a-half-hour practices almost every day, and we lift weights the other times. It's not very often we get a day off." Nor are they likely to anytime soon. Currently 7-1 in the conference, if the Jays continue to repeat last year's winning record they will be headed back to the NCAA playoffs come spring. This from a team that lost two of its key starting seniors from last season and has no fewer than seven freshmen (including starting guard Kristen McKee) on the roster. Playing well with such a young team is more than a matter of developing skills. It also depends on desire, on the need to win. "I was impressed by how much cerebral preparation goes into each game," says biology professor Maurice Bessman, who recently served as a one-game honorary coach on the team. Bessman spent a weekend assisting at practice before joining the bench for the team's 80-69 victory over Haverford College. "The preparation before each game is truly impressive. They know their opponents and how they will play. The team is mentally prepared." As the skills mature and the smarts develop, all that's needed is the heart, the overwhelming desire to win. And that's something Julie Anderson has in abundance. "Playing in the NCAA tournament last year was awesome," she says with special emphasis on the final word. "I'm fairly confident we're going to make a good run at it again this year. We're a young team, but we definitely have the ability and the talent to do it. We just need to stay focused." With Anderson on board, there seems little doubt they will.
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