Virginia Basketball: Justin Anderson Is Key for the Cavaliers

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2013

Jan 6, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Justin Anderson (23) handles the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels at John Paul Jones Arena. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers had one of the best forwards in the country last season in Mike Scott.

Scott had a tremendous senior season in which he averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for the Cavaliers before graduating and moving on to the NBA.

Now, it appears Tony Bennett has found the perfect replacement for Scott in Justin Anderson.
Anderson is a freshman forward from Montross, Va., and one of the most highly-touted recruits Tony Bennett has had during his time at Virginia.

After originally committing to play for the Maryland Terrapins, Anderson switched his commitment to UVA after Gary Williams announced he would be retiring.

The 6'6'' forward brings a tremendous amount of athleticism to the team and has the opportunity to flourish in Tony Bennett's system over the next few years. But as bright as his future looks, Justin Anderson has to help his team now.

If the Cavaliers are to reach the NCAA Tournament, they have to be able to depend on Anderson down the stretch.

Virginia has struggled to find consistent scorers all season. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are the only two players averaging in double figures in scoring and the next leading scorer is Evan Nolte at 6.9 points per game.

Anderson is averaging 6.8 points per game but he needs to emerge as the team's third scoring option in Virginia's remaining games. He is a matchup problem for opposing teams and appears to be adjusting well to the physicality of the college game.

In the second half of the game against Miami, Anderson showed an ability to get to the basket and finish at the rim and he also showed some nice touch on his jump shot. He has also scored in double figures in five of his last nine games, including a 17-point performance on the road against Maryland.

There is no doubt in his ability, but he must be assertive and aggressive to capitalize on his opportunities within the Virginia offense.

If Anderson can continue to produce for the Cavaliers, he will be the perfect complement to Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. It's a lot to ask of a freshman, but it's what Virginia needs to reach the NCAA Tournament.