Forget about stats. It’s the intense eyes that don’t lie.
On the basketball court, University of Richmond’s senior star Kendall Anthony may look small -- a compact 5 feet 8 inches tall and 150 pounds -- but that calm, killer look in his eyes plainly says: “You will not stop me.”
It’s a big reason why Anthony, just named All-Atlantic 10 first team, is considered by many to be the best point guard in the city this year.
He’s proven it with gutsy performances in game after game of his career, throwing his small frame into the middle of trees, bouncing off huge players and finishing plays, as well as draining 3-pointers and silencing opposing crowds. Anthony is averaging 16.3 points a game, which ranks eighth in the league. He’s had 26 double-figure scoring games this year, nailing 54 3s and becoming UR's all-time 3-point leader in the process.
Virginia Commonwealth University fans may not like him, but they’ve learned to respect him. He’s a big reason the Spiders defeated the more imposing Rams twice this season. And now he's leading a confident team that could upset the A-10 tournament. A team on a six-game winning streak.
“He has extremely high character. He sets a high standard for himself and holds himself to that standard in everything he does,” coach Chris Mooney says in an email. “He doesn't just rely on his speed and talent. He has been in the gym working at the same shots nearly every night of his career. He is meticulous in his preparation and his work ethic.”
With the Spiders on a winning streak and poised to do damage in the A-10 tourney in Brooklyn, Style spoke with Anthony while he was finishing one of his last practices in Richmond.
Style: How’s the wear-and-tear right now, how are your legs feeling?
Anthony: I’m pretty good. I’ve been taking care of my body a lot better this year than I have any other year. I don’t feel as tired as I did last year. I feel pretty good going into this [tournament]. We’ve had a couple days off, it’s been good to rest and get treatment.
Whenever you play, you seem to have the most heart of anyone on the floor. Where does that toughness come from?
Just growing up I had to play people a lot taller than me – you couldn’t not play hard against the older guys. Growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, that made me be a tougher person; made me not scared to challenge people taller.
On the radio, Coach Mooney called you "the toughest player he’s ever coached."
I think we have a great relationship. He’s kind of a father figure to me. He really puts a lot of trust in me which I’m grateful for. He’s definitely somebody I’ve had a good relationship with here in Richmond.
You’ve had a hall-of-fame career and great success as a leader there, how would you describe your leadership style?
First few years I wasn’t really a vocal leader, just did it. This year coach has challenged me to be more of a leader, talk to my teammates, get them ready to play. Just been taking on more of a vocal leadership [role] that some of the guys before me had.
It looks like UR often leaves offensive rebounds and just gets back – is that planned?
I mean sometimes, but I think we just want to get back and set up in our defense. [Often] we’re not the bigger team so we’re not going to get every rebound. We recognize that, take a shot and want to get back on defense. That’s the thing, just not giving up fast break points. Getting back is a big thing. ... We’re looking forward to having Alonzo [Nelson-Ododa] back [Friday].
Is there a guiding philosophy beneath UR’s unique defensive match-up zone -- you sometimes get switched onto a bigger player up top. Then occasionally you will follow a player out of your area. It can be confusing.
I mean if you get hit with a screen, you find the next man coming up. So you’re playing defense on somebody, you come up and somebody sets a screen on you, you gotta either stay with the man if they tell you there’s nobody on the same side as you, or you get the man coming up on the same side. You can get bumped off, sometimes we just switch because the big man wants the big man to stay in the paint, little guys or guards to stay outside. So you kinda got to find ways to do that. ... It’s different. I think it’s good though, it keeps the guards out of foul trouble cause we don’t have to guard the bigger players.
How do your performances against VCU stack up for you? What will be going through your mind if you meet up on Friday?
Just taking one game, one opponent at a time. I enjoy playing VCU, but on Friday I’m just focusing on getting a win no matter who we play. I’m very used to playing them, played them for four years. I know their style of play, know what to expect and that’s a big thing for me. Handling the pressure for my team, being able to make sure my team runs offense sets right and plays team defense.
You have any pregame rituals or things you do in Brooklyn?
Before every game I take a nap, and before the game I play. I’ve already played up in Brooklyn three times. It’s a really nice arena, NBA arena. Its somewhere that I really enjoy playing, have the privilege to play. It’s a really big stage, so I just want to come up and compete.
Do you know about your plans after school?
I want to continue to play basketball, wherever that is. I’ll figure that out when the season is over. We’ll see what happens.
So is there anything you pursue with as much passion as basketball?
I don’t think I do anything as much as basketball.