Coming into the 2015-16 season, there were only two really familiar faces returning to the Arizona Wildcats -- four-year starter, Kaleb Tarczewski, and senior guard, Gabe York, ready to step in to a featured role. These two senior leaders were expected to lead Arizona, the team would go as far as they did. At moments, there's no doubt that that was true, but throughout the season, it was actually another senior leading the way.
After three years at Boston College, 6'8" power forward, Ryan Anderson, elected to sit out a year and spend his senior season at Arizona. What Coach Miller and the Wildcats expected out of this new addition was a bruising rebounder that could score from anywhere on the floor. What Arizona got was, quietly, one of the best individual statistical seasons in program history.
In 33 games, Anderson collected 17 double-doubles. Anderson would end up averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds, the first Arizona Wildcat to average a double-double since Jordan Hill's 2008-09 season. Anderson's physical post-game and ability to both score off the dribble and make a jumpshot consistently, made him one of the toughest scorers to stop in the Pac-12.
Arizona was one of the fiercest rebounding teams in the nation, finishing as a top ten team in rebound rate. In a season where Arizona's defense didn't measure up to years past and their shooting wasn't what people had hoped for, Arizona's rebounding was a major calling card for the team's success this season. Anderson's tenacity on the glass, especially at the offensive end, had a lot to do with that. He finished with the third best offensive rebound percentage in the Pac-12 and best total rebounding percentage.
Tarczewski, York and freshman, Allonzo Trier all had their moments of looking like the best Wildcat on the floor this season but it was really Ryan Anderson that provided the most stability and was arguably the best player on the court for Arizona in the '15-16 campaign. Anderson finished with a PER of 26.0, the highest any Wildcat has had since Derrick Williams' PER of 32.8 in 2011. Anderson also had the best true shooting percentage of any Wildcat since Williams (65% in 2011) at 60.4%.
Perhaps the most surprising stat of Anderson's sole season in Tucson has to do with his defense. Everyone knew he could score and rebound but a concern about Anderson coming into the season was his defense. His years at BC certainly didn't show a history of defensive success. He lacked consistency from game-to-game as he did occasionally struggle but he finished with the fourth-best defensive rating in the Pac-12, at 94.1. His rating was helped by the fact that he often shared the floor with Tarczewski who became an elite rim protector as the season wore on. But Anderson's mobility and physical toughness helped establish he and Zeus as a formidable interior defense duo.
Arizona may have underachieved this season but the individual play of Ryan Anderson was a major factor in keeping the Wildcats afloat for the majority of the season.
Feb. 3 @ Washington State: 31 points, 12 rebounds, 10-16 FG, 11-17 FT
Jan. 14 vs. Washington: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 7-10 FG, 7-9 FT
Jan. 21 @ Stanford: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 7-7 FG, 4-5 FT
Jan. 7 @ UCLA: 15 points, 15 rebounds, 0 turnovers.
Despite Ryan Anderson's impressive senior season, the NBA isn't exactly knocking doors down for a 23-year old undersized rookie power forward. If Anderson were to add some pounds and muscle, he could be a Jared Sullinger-type player with the recent small-ball love affair that has taken place in the NBA. But, that is the absolute best-case scenario. His physicality and mobility are important tools but he lacks the size and strength required to play in the league. He's also shown to be turnover prone which wouldn't fare well in the NBA.
Right now, it appears Ryan Anderson will go undrafted, with a slight chance at being picked toward the end of the second round. But Arizona fans have seen first-hand that his skill and work ethic make him a player fans of any professional team would be happy to have.
All stats via sports-reference.com.