Justin Anderson has been busy this summer. Training, getting to know his new teammates, traveling to China with the Yao Ming Foundation, finally getting settled into an apartment in Philadelphia instead of a hotel.
His time also included appearing at the Sixers' Camden Youth Basketball Clinic, twice in three days this week. Jahlil Okafor also attended on the second day.
“For me to even be invited is dear to me,” Anderson said.
The camp, presented by Virtua, hosted over 900 children from the Camden, New Jersey area. It included basketball drills, dance lessons and fitness tests. Anderson addressed the campers and stressed the importance of health, respecting parents and school. He handed out boxes of Nike sneakers as well.
Anderson held a demonstration wherein campers stood on a basketball. Each second they could balance on the ball represented one season in the NBA. Then, he asked them to stand on a stack of textbooks. Each second represented a year of opportunities afforded to them because of their education. The seconds on the books far outlasted the seconds on the basketball.
“It’s such a vital moment for them education-wise,” Anderson said. “I just want to put myself in a position to be a role model, be a mentor, and open up and allow these kids to see it’s cool to be in school, it’s cool to have fun with it, and also be able to be a good athlete as well.”
Anderson showed a natural ability to connect with the campers and lead a crowd. He plans to bring those aspects to the Sixers this season, too.
“We want to make as strong of a playoff push as we can, and we really do confidently believe that we can make that happen,” he said.
Anderson was traded in mid-February from the Mavericks in the Nerlens Noel deal and basically lived out of a suitcase for the remainder of the season. He considers not being settled for those months “the toughest moment” of his NBA career. Anderson can relate to those who are new to the team and aims to help them get acclimated.
“[I want to] show these guys that even though I’m only 23 years old, I’m a leader in my own type of way,” he said.
He looks to bring an even-keeled approach to the season. The Sixers are positioned to make a noticeable improvement from last season’s 28-54 record. Anderson understands this doesn’t always happen overnight.
“Expectations are for us to go through growing pains but us to have fun going through them,” he said. “Us understanding that we’re going to create an identity of being very tough, hard-nosed under Coach (Brett) Brown. Obviously, we have a lot of young talent trying to figure it out, along with myself. But the best thing is being able to grow together.”
On the court, Anderson wants to contribute versatility on both ends. He could earn the backup small forward role behind Robert Covington, and also has the ability to play multiple positions. Last season, Anderson averaged 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 24 games for the Sixers. He started the final eight games in place of Covington (knee).
“I think my role is going to be one that allows to play different positions, guard multiple positions, being able to shoot the ball from deep, close, whatever the case may be,” Anderson said. “My athleticism being off the charts and being that energy guy who’s going to be one that brings that spark to the team. I’m just excited.”
Anderson is ready to get the season underway. He’s simply looking forward to participating in a full practice at the Sixers' training complex, something he didn’t have the opportunity to do because of the team's crammed game schedule after the All-Star break.
“I wish training camp was tomorrow,” Anderson said.