Full Breakdown of Central Arkansas transfer Tucker Anderson, the Aggies’ new, young forward | Sports

After stacking guards and centers, either from the transfer portal or retaining those same position players from last year’s team, the addition of Tucker Anderson to Utah State was quite the breath of fresh air for the Aggies. The 6-foot-9 forward who starred for Central Arkansas as its leading scorer and the eventual ASUN Freshman of the Year is exactly the kind of player first year head coach Jerrod Calhoun needed to get on his roster.

The talent of the guard line is indisputable and the potential from the centers is solid. But teams always need those in-between guys. Perhaps more importantly, the Aggies needed the shooting Anderson is capable of.

Anderson shot 38.1 percent from three last season, already an above average number and the two caveats surrounding that percentage only make it more impressive.

  1. He attempted 6.4 triples per game
  2. He was a freshman

Among 197 players that attempted at least 190 threes, Anderson ranked T-70th. Trimming that same list to include just the freshmen and Anderson was one of just two players to eclipse 38 percent on that volume (the other being Duke guard and projected first round NBA Draft pick Jared McCain).

Seeing those numbers and also taking a first look at Anderson’s 3-point highlight reel will immediately draw Aggie fans’ thoughts to Taylor Funk. It’s a perfectly fair comparison. Any time Anderson touches the ball in the half court, he’s a threat to pull up and drill a three.

With his height, it’s really hard to contest any of these shots and Anderson is perfectly aware of that, being willing to rise and fire even if the defense is close by. Per Synergy Sports tracking data, Anderson attempted 113 guarded 3-pointers which ranks him just outside the top 100 for all players (BTW, “all players” is more than 10,000 so top 100 isn’t anything to sneeze at). Anderson made 41.6 percent of these contested triples, showing the closer defenders don’t phase him.

This kind of shooting goes beyond the points created and the efficiency of those attempts. It creates a gravity around the shooter that stretches defenses and allows the offense to take advantage of the justified worry of such a good shooter.

When Central Arkansas played Missouri, Anderson hit a trio of threes in the first half, leading the Tigers to play him super close. In the second half, the Bears generated an open three by exploiting a switch Missouri used that was meant to counter Anderson’s long run around two screens. Instead a quick screen the other way led to an open shot (that was missed, unfortunately).

Simply being on the floor with this kind of 3-point shooting can often be enough to create opportunities for teammates. And as Anderson learns and grows with better off-ball movement, he only becomes more dangerous.

So, the current iteration of Anderson, entering a true sophomore season, is a dangerous shooter that teams will be chasing around the court and perpetually afraid of seeing him get the ball with an inch of room.

Again, that’s the current iteration, not the player Anderson can eventually become.

At this young age, Anderson’s total offensive package is naturally not super polished aside from his 3-point shooting (which is already very impressive as we’ve already gone over). There’s a lot of room for growth, specifically in becoming a three-level scorer in honing his mid-range game and becoming more effective in finishing at the rim, especially when attacking closeout. Essentially, it’s Anderson going from being a young Taylor Funk and becoming more of a taller Sam Merrill. There’s a long way to go to becoming the latter, but early returns are fairly promising.

Pull up any highlight reel from Anderson last year and you’ll find a solid variety of shots that would indicate he is already a three-level scorer complete with a solid mid-range game. It’s a tad bit of fool’s gold right now since he wasn’t super efficient overall last year, shooting just 41.5 percent overall and under 50 percent inside the 3-point line.

The key is that Anderson became more efficient as the year went on. You can see this in basic form by comparing his non-conference field goal percentages to his in-conference ones.


  • Overall FG% – 38.4
  • 2-Point % – 40.3
  • 3-Point % – 37.1
  • Free Throw % – 80.0

Conference Games

  • Overall FG% – 44.4
  • 2-Point % – 50.0
  • 3-Point % – 39.1
  • Free Throw % – 82.0

Digging further, you can see how he increased his efficiency over a variety of shots, arguably the most dramatic being in the mid-range and on dribble jump shots in general. The following graph displays a five-game rolling field goal percentage on three different shot types, one being on mid-range shots between three and 17 feet, the second is all dribble jump shots (including threes) and thirdly, all 3-point shots.

Tucker Anderson Shot Graph

There’s a pretty clear rise in percentage for the more difficult mid-range and dribble jump shots Anderson took, going from shooting in the teens at the start of the year to the 40s and even 50s by the end of the season. His volume didn’t really change over the course of the season, he just got better. If Anderson keeps up this growth and is able to combine these types of shots with the fact he’s 6-foot-9, a height where defenders being able to truly challenge jumpers effectively isn’t really a thing, and you’re looking at conference-player-of-the-year-level scoring.

Scoring and potential aside, there’s an interesting dialogue worth having about what position Anderson will play. Roughly 99.9% of players who come to USU that are 6-foot-9 or taller will play power forward or even center. But Anderson’s body composition (for lack of a better term), being a rather slight 190 pounds, doesn’t exactly scream power forward, much less center. His offensive role is pretty clearly that of a small forward with his skillset and play style favoring the perimeter and essentially no post-up game as part of his repertoire. But offensive role isn’t really the issue, it’s defense where issue could crop up.

The point of worry in this case is fear of Anderson being a “tweener,” stuck somewhere between being a small forward and power forward. The main issues presented by that designation being a lack of quickness to defend small forward (often just guards at the college level) or the bigger power forwards. Luckily for Utah State, film study suggests Anderson is often fine defending at the college small forward position and can even occasionally stand up in the post when necessary.

On plenty of occasions, Anderson found himself defending quick guards, but he wasn’t treated as someone teams would matchup hunt or try to isolate their scoring guards onto. Players would sometimes size up Anderson when he switched onto them but more often then not declined to go one-on-one. On some of the occasions they did try it, Anderson seemed capable enough in stopping them or forcing a tough shot. Here’s a few cases from that game against Missouri where there were a handful of times the Tigers’ talented scoring guards tested the Bears’ wing.

This isn’t to say Anderson is a defensive prodigy. Freshman mistakes on that end were uncomfortably frequent and advanced defensive metrics ranked him as one of the least effective defenders on a team that ranked 330th in points allowed per game. There’s improvements to be made on that end. The point is that his shortcomings aren’t caused by any lack of physical tools. He’s got enough quickness and length to guard positions 2-4. His problems are ones that coaching, experience and dedication from Anderson will need to solve.

So a lot of the film and data suggest that Anderson should play more small forward than power forward. He can play both, but there are a couple of other solid reasons to limit the time Anderson plays at the four. Mainly it’s rebounding and post defense.

Rebounding is something Anderson isn’t particularly fantastic at. The 3.7 rebounds per game is a decent number for a guy spending a lot of his time outside the paint, but very few of those are rebounds that were created with the skill, savvy and just pure hustle good rebounders display. Anderson boxes out well enough when he needs to, even against guys much bigger and stronger than him. The issue just seems to be him being aggressive in going after boards.

It’s not the end of the world if Anderson isn’t a high-level rebounder unless he ends up playing a significant amount of his minutes at power forward. It’s one of the key skills that position group needs to bring to the floor so if he’s not going to bring that, it’s better to have him further up the lineup card.

The other potential issue, post defense, isn’t something Anderson had to deal with a lot at Central Arkansas. According to Synergy Sports tracking data, he only defended a post-up 19 times all season, or slightly more often than once every other game. Oddly enough, he actually performed really well in these situations, forcing turnovers in eight of those possessions, giving up a shooting foul only twice and overall allowing just 0.79 points per post-up.

Part of this general success in those cases was the occasions were limited and often came against players who weren’t dominant post guys. If Anderson has to face the regular post-ups that power forwards often face in the Mountain West, it’d likely be a bit too much for him. Anderson had occasional issues with foul trouble and it usually coincided with having to defend guys in the paint.

Perhaps the the best scenario for the Aggies may be to bring in a more physical, rebounding power forward to pair with either Isaac Johnson or Aubin Gateretse in the frontcourt and give Anderson room to improve both his strength, defense and rebounding. If he sticks around for the next three years, you could end up seeing a version of Anderson that is fully capable of handling the power forward role and all its duties.

The final verdict for Anderson’s impact will be made later, but right now it very much appears Utah State got itself a quality young player who was sought after by numerous high-major schools for his shooting and potential. The Aggies will benefit from having Anderson’s already valuable skillset on their side and potentially more depending on how he evolves his game in the coming months and years.

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