Serenity: Anderson a calming presence for Manchester
TOMS RIVER – What do you call a player who voluntarily forgoes the glamor of scoring to enhance that of those who surround her? Who willingly sacrifices personal notoriety in the name of overall team success? Who gives up her shots to make room for a newcomer?
A model teammate? Absolutely. A throwback? You better believe it. But, in the case of Manchester, you can be much more specific and address her as Serenity Anderson, aptly named for the peaceful presence she offers to promote invaluable tranquility amid a sea of talented cast members. Listen to the gushing testimonials of fellow Hawks and the image of the 5-9 guard is painted in tones of reverence, recognized for all the attributes that don’t earn headlines but something far greater.
Admiration and respect.
Anderson is intuitive. When All-Stater Leilani Correa transferred in from Rutgers Prep last spring for her senior year, the handwriting was on the wall. The West Virginia recruit is a prolific scorer, joining forces with 6-3 sophomore sensation Destiny Adams, electrifying junior point guard Kemari Reynolds and rugged senior forward Dakota Adams, all in possession of established track records as accomplished finishers in their own right. You can have all the shooters in the world, but the game is still played with one basketball.
“I had to change the way I played the game,” said Anderson. “I had to pass. I had to switch it up. I like passing the ball and getting my teammates a chance to score. It makes me feel really good. It gets everyone excited and hyped.”
“Serenity is a big part of this team and a factor in our success,” said Correa. “She is the definition of a great teammate. She picks you up when you’re down. She is always willing to make the extra pass. She never made it hard for me.”
Make no mistake, despite her tame 2.8 points per game, Anderson could be in that category of menacing scorers. As a freshman, she was an often-called-upon shooter for the Hawks who netted 7.1 a night and, last winter, knocked down 20 3-pointers. Times and circumstances have changed. So, too, has Anderson.
She is more explorer than scorer, seeking out avenues that have subtly shaped her game in a wider range. Watch Reynolds or Correa curl into the lane off a high-post screen and chances are Anderson is the one who set the liberating pick. Check out Destiny Adams put a defender on her hip and Anderson is quick to illuminate the technique with a snap pass that opens the door for a bucket on the block.
Her selfless actions come natural. Perhaps, it explains how she quietly took a step back on her own and relieved head coach Dave Beauchemin from the difficult discussion about redesigning her roles.
“It’s something that should be within everybody…the selfless player. It’s becoming more and more of a challenge,” said Beauchemin. “You build yourself to compete at a high level but it’s real tough to mold into a role player. She has evolved from our secondary scorer as a freshman into someone doing the dirty work, playing out of position and never batting an eye. She does what the team needs.”
On Saturday, in the quarterfinal round of the Shore Conference Tournament against sixth-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven, Anderson didn’t register a point but determined more than a few at both ends of the floor. She greeted ballhandlers at the top of a 2-3 zone by pressing up into their faces, dropped down at times to defend the corners and facilitated the basketball at notable times when the Hawks offense need a subtle revival.
Manchester was never in peril, a 19-0 start sparking a 67-33 triumph that vaulted it into the semifinals for the first time in program history. But, when RFH made a move, paring a 24-point deficit down to a manageable 38-25 difference midway through the third, Anderson distributed in a heady manner that extinguished any thoughts of an upset unfolding.
With 1.8 seconds left in the period, she lobbed a halfcourt inbounds toward the basket, inviting Correa to elevate and deposit a layup in alley-oop fashion that popped the lead to 47-29. And, she rifled a dime to Destiny Adams in the post to trigger a three-point play early in the fourth, part of a 20-4 finishing kick that mirrored the Hawks' start.
Hear what those who know her best say and her character shines through their praise.
“It’s actually inspiring because she is not selfish,” noted Adams, who dropped in 22 points in the win, of Anderson’s modest play. “She is willing to put everything that she had done aside to be a good teammate to us.”
“Serenity is the player anyone would want to have on their team” said Reynolds, who netted 11. “She is the basic ideal that it’s bigger than yourself. She comes out and gives 100 percent every single time. She would rather have her teammates score and just get the win. That’s a team player. Ren is probably our best shooter but she puts the win first. At first it was tough for her because who doesn’t want to score? We talked about it 100 times, it’s about the win. Great teammate.”
“I played with Ren for a lot of years,” said Dakota Adams. “She has always been unselfish. Her vision is out of this world. So, to use that to the best of her ability, when we really need it…I really think that’s beneficial to the team whether she is scoring or not.”
Anderson takes the salutes in the same stride in which she plays, accepting it without allowing it to boost her ego. Maybe, because she plays without one, checked at the door from the outset of the season, one with a high ceiling thanks to a role player serving as the consummate role model for the good of the brand by providing what defines her - serenity.