BOWLING GREEN — There’s not much Josh Anderson hasn’t accomplished during his 141-game basketball career at Western Kentucky University.
When the Hilltoppers close out the regular season at home on Saturday with Senior Day, it will break the school record for career games played by Lynn Cole from 1951 to 1955.
Anderson, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, ranks 19th all-time at WKU with 1,470 points — just 40 points off 18th place.
Personal accolades aside, Anderson, of Baton Rouge, La., what’s most important to him is pursuing that ever-elusive NCAA Tournament bid.
It was one of the main reasons he quickly decided after last season to use a fifth-year at WKU.
“Once we lost in the championship game, it was a no-brainer for me,” he said of the United States Conference tournament final loss to North Texas in overtime last March. “I wanted to come back and win the championship here and also finish my degree…”
Anderson is majoring in interdisciplinary studies, with an emphasis on health and a minor in athletic training.
His senior season was, like the Hilltoppers’ season (18-12 overall, 10-7 in the league), filled with ups and downs.
He started the first six games of the season before being sidelined by COVID-19. After missing three games, he went from being the first player to come off coach Rick Stansbury’s bench.
It is a role in which he has flourished. He came off the bench in 19 straight games before returning to the starting lineup last weekend in a loss at Middle Tennessee when injuries and illness sidelined Luke Frampton and Jairus Hamilton.
It also started on Wednesday as WKU dropped Marshall on the road, 86-72, with Hamilton still sidelined.
Anderson increased his scoring average from 9.2 ppg to a game-high 13.1 ppg as a key sub and embraced the team’s leading role. He’s averaging 12.4 points per game heading into the regular season finale.
“Whether I come off the bench or start, it’s still basketball,” he said. “My approach has been somewhat the same. One thing that has definitely changed is that I have time to get a feel for the game and see how things go, so when I’m getting ready to get into the game I already know what the team will need and how I can help the game.
Hilltopper coach Rick Stansbury said Anderson’s maturity helped him in his role.
He said Anderson, who started 26 of 27 games last season, gets the most important minutes in the game – when the game is on the line. He averages 29:40 minutes per outing.
Anderson also averaged 10.4 points per game during his career.
“With Josh, you know what you’re going to get every night,” said grad student Camron Justice. “At both ends of the floor.
Anderson said that after last season when he shot 33.3% from 3-point range, he realized he needed to work on his long-range shooting and said he spent a lot of time during the offseason to “make shots as much as possible”.
The work had paid off. He’s shooting a career-best 38.8 percent over 3s.
WKU lost in the C-USA Tournament title game in 2018, 2019 and last season, and for the Hilltoppers to enter the NCAA Tournament this year, overcoming the league tournament hump is the only way forward.
“It’s not just important to me, but to everyone,” he said.
The C-USA tournament begins next week in Frisco, Texas. A Florida Atlantic loss on Thursday or a WKU victory on Saturday would give the Hilltoppers a double bye to the quarterfinals of the tournament.