Westmont’s Caden Anderson underwent a variety of emotions.
Two years ago, Anderson experienced the thrill of starting on the varsity team during his freshman year. He became the Sentinels’ go-to player, Westmont coach Craig Etheridge said, during his first two years.
But Anderson’s good fortune was not reflected in Westmont's record. The Sentinels won a combined 18 games over the last two seasons.
“It was a struggle being on losing teams, but an honor to be on the varsity team as an underclassman,” Anderson said. “I just love the game so much that I just kept working at it and doing my best to help the team even though we were struggling to win games.”
Anderson, a junior guard/forward, is no longer Westmont's singular go-to player. He welcomes playing for a team full of talented and diverse players. The Sentinels (9-0, 4-0 Interstate Eight) are off to one of the best starts in school history. Etheridge said “it’s the best in at least 30 years.”
The Sentinels play in their IC Catholic Prep/Westmont Christmas Classic this week.
The 6-foot-2 Anderson, the leading scorer at 11.5 points per game, is enjoying the fast start. The highlights keep coming. The Sentinels won the Lisle Thanksgiving Tournament, and defeated Coal City on Matt O’Leary’s 3-pointer at the buzzer on Dec. 15.
Anderson scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the win over Coal City.
He credited the undefeated record to teamwork and a balanced offense.
“It’s really special,” he said. “We have come a long way since my freshman year. It shows our hard work is paying off. We’ve been playing really well as a team. We don’t have one outstanding guy way above everyone else in scoring. We can have three or four guys in a game scoring in double digits, not just one guy with 20 points.”
Anderson serves two primary roles on offense for the Sentinels. As one of the best 3-pointers on the team, he draws taller defenders outside the paint. His ability to penetrate and play in the post creates matchup problems.
“He’s one of my top outside shooters, so he’s a hard matchup for a lot of teams,” Etheridge said.
Etheridge admitted he was concerned how Anderson, a three-year starter, would handle a lesser load on offense this season. Through nine games, the Sentinels have four players averaging between 11.5 and 8 points per game. Last season, Anderson averaged 15 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game and made 36 3-pointers.
“This year, because we have some balance, we are not running any specific plays for Caden anymore, and we spread the ball around a lot more and are giving other guys a lot more opportunities,” Etheridge said. “Caden’s a great team player and leader for us. He’s more concerned about the team playing well and winning than getting his shots. He’s one of the guys that has led us.”
A varsity player on Westmont's baseball team in his first two seasons, Anderson said basketball is his passion. He spent the offseason working on his jumper and getting stronger in the weight room, along with emphasizing on becoming a vocal leader.
“We know we have to keep playing hard and as a team,”Anderson said. “We want to keep winning and playing well the rest of the season.”