Anderson trying to fill shooting niche for IU

He could’ve gone back up with it.

But Damezi Anderson had another idea, and decided to do what he does best.

Anderson was no more than 10 feet away from the basket when he pulled down an offensive rebound early in the second half of Thursday’s exhibition win over Southern Indiana. Instead of hoisting a put-back try near the rim, Anderson went outside.

He took two dribbles to the wing and spotted from in front of the Indiana bench, lifting a shot that fell for his first 3-pointer of the night.

For an IU team that struggled to shoot from distance last season, Anderson’s best quality is an attribute the Hoosiers can embrace. In Indiana’s lone exhibition of the preseason, the newcomer accomplished exactly what he was recruited for.

“Damezi showed a little bit of what he can do from behind the line,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “He’s a big guard (that) can shoot the ball.”

If Anderson is to find himself as a regular rotation member this season, 3-point shooting will be his niche.

Anderson scored each of his game-high 14 points in Thursday’s second half, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range and making his lone attempt inside the arc.

“He’s a shooter, as you can see,” IU guard Johnny Jager said. “Put it up, he makes it. Having a weapon like that stretches out the defense. You have to stay with him. (He) opens up driving lanes. Kick it to him, money 3. It’s a big weapon.”

The South Bend native’s skill set is a bit one-dimensional right now, but he has the potential to occupy a valuable role this year as a much-needed shooter off the bench.

Anderson, IU’s first scholarship signee from South Bend since Tom Abernethy, was considered the No. 3 in-state prospect in the 2018 signing class.

In scoring 2,210 career points at South Bend Riley, Anderson was, at times, a streaky shooter, albeit one that poured in points more often than not. During his first few months at IU, as he’s made efforts to diversify his game.

At this level, it’s important to Anderson that he identifies the quality shots and not merely fire at the first look he gets.

“(I’m) really just taking smart shots instead of just forcing shots up,” Anderson said last month. “I play with a lot of good players, so I really don’t have to shoot every shot. It’s really just shot selection. If I got it, I’m gonna take it. But if I don’t, I’m gonna pass it and look for another one.”

As well as Anderson shoots it, his minutes will be limited until he grows on the defensive end. That’s already been one of the primary teaching points for Anderson since stepping onto campus this summer.

“His struggles are like all young guys,” Miller said. “He’s learning how to play defense the first time a certain way. Offensively he’s learning how to play a new style. He thinks a lot at times. But I thought (Thursday) it was nice to see him let it go. He has that ability, the skill level behind the three-point line. He’s a big, strong kid. I think the better he gets defensively, the more minutes he’ll get.”

In the interim, as long as he can still tap into his shooting strength when asked, Anderson has an opportunity to help IU fill a need this season.

“He can shoot the ball,” Miller said. “He’s a good shooter.”