Throughout the early years of the G League, back when it was still known as the NBA’s Development League, or D-League, there were a lot of negative connotations about it floating around the basketball community.
NBA players on assignment thought of it as a punishment. Other players looking to break into the NBA saw overseas options as being more viable and lucrative even if it meant leaving the U.S.
One of those players was former Boston College and Arizona star Ryan Anderson. Anderson was named to the ACC All-Freshman team back during the 2011-12 season with the Eagles. He ended up having a couple more standout years for Boston College before transferring to Arizona.
Although he put together a solid campaign for the Wildcats, averaging a double-double (15.3 points and 10.1 rebounds) and being named to the first-team All-Pac-12, he went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The G League was still the D-League at the time, and instead of trying his luck there, Anderson opted to pursue professional opportunities overseas instead. He played two seasons overseas before suffering an injury that saw him sit out the 2017-18 season. When he was fully recovered and ready to start looking at his basketball options, he chose the G League to be where he would resume playing basketball.
”I think it’s really growing. A couple of years ago when I was coming out of college, I didn’t even consider the G League, it was not where I really wanted to go. But this season, coming off the injury I felt like it was a great opportunity to play,” Anderson told Ridiculous Upside. “It’s high-level guys, a lot of us could be playing for high-level teams in Europe overseas, but we decided to come to the G League. It makes it a more competitive environment.”
This past season, Anderson played his rookie year in the G League with the Delaware Blue Coats, the affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers. He put up some solid numbers with 7.6 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, and he shot 48.5 percent from the field.
He mostly came off the bench for Delaware, but in the four games he started, he showed the double-double ability that was so often on display while he was in college. As a starter, he put up 11.5 points per game, 12.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and he shot 45.0 percent from the field.
With the G League growing in popularity and gaining more traction among aspiring NBA players, the competition level is growing and more players are seeing the league as an alternative to going overseas. Anderson himself saw that this past season and after having experienced the G League for the first time, he feels like it’s a great opportunity for players to one day make it to the NBA.
”I feel like the G League really helps you. There’s a lot of guys out there who just want to get better. The coaches really help you,” Anderson said. “I know in Delaware, the coaching staff I really loved, they really looked out, they tried to get me better every day. That’s all you can really ask for, that’s what you’re there for to get better.”
Before playing in the G League, Anderson played in Europe for couple years in multiple countries. He started out in Belgium with the Antwerp Giants of the Belgian League, then played with s.Oliver Wurzburg in Germany. He also had a brief stint with BC Pieno zvaigzdes in Lithuania.
It can be a bit difficult for American players to fit in once they make the trek across the Atlantic. Sometimes players feel on their own and isolated. For Anderson, it was a big learning experience, but one that he feels he was able to get used to should that option arise again.
“It’s crazy, you don’t know the language, you’re out there by yourself at times, but I think it makes you grow up,” Anderson said. “You learn a lot and I don’t know what this season will have for me if I go overseas or stay here, but I feel like I’m kind of used to it.”
Aside from the difference in culture and living, American players also have to adapt to the differences in the game. American basketball and European basketball can be very similar, but also very different.
When Anderson returned stateside this year, he noted a few key differences in how the game was played in Europe, and what he experienced in the G League.
”It’s a lot slower-paced, it’s a lot more physical, the refs call the game a lot differently. The G League is a lot of up and down, there’s a lot of guys that want to get in transition and play fast,” Anderson said. “Obviously the shot clock and the different rules change the game too. Just little stuff like that, I would say the tempo and the speed are the big difference.”
While Anderson has yet to decide where he’ll be playing this upcoming season, he spent this summer working on his game in his hometown of Los Angeles and famed Drew League. Every summer, the league attracts some of the top professional, college, and high school players in the country.
For Anderson, it’s a great place to keep in shape and stay sharp for whatever basketball opportunities that might come his way.
”I think playing in the Drew is all about having fun, competing against good guys in the summer. There’s not many opportunities to play with refs, with a system, stuff like that,” Anderson said. “You get to come out and play against a lot of people from the city. I think the Drew is the best environment in the world for this kind of stuff in the summer. It’s an honor to be able to play.”