TLL Interview With Antonia Anderson (AT)

AT has been the lobo’s 6th Woman off the bench most of this season, getting playing time in the post and on the wing.  Last season she played in 29 games averaging 13 minutes per game, almost all off the bench.  She led the team in blocked shots was second in rebounds per minute, and the second leading scorer off the bench.
The 2018-19 season started slowly as she adjusted to playing more minutes at the wing instead of only backing up Jaisa Nunn at the post, but when the conference season started she got into the rhythm and AT’s production shot up.  In the past dozen games she has be a major contributor, and along with Jayden de la Cerda, one of the two most improved players.  In those games, AT has averages just under 8 points and 4 rebounds a game, and typically guards the opponent’s best player when she is the first player off the bench for the Lobos.
Joe: Thank you for taking the time after practice.
AT: No problem.
Joe: You are well into your second year. What has been different this year? You are a sophomore, but the reality is that you came into the year as one of the experienced players because you lost so many people from last year.
AT: Our team is a lot closer than we were last year. We really have a lot of fun together on and off the court and I think that shows on the court. We definitely bring a lot of energy this year.
I think it’s definitely a change. Last year I was having to learn everything, especially playing post, so I was having to take advice from Jaisa and Tisha. But this year, I definitely have to help the young ones out. The ones below me, especially Bre’ and Shai, guiding them and letting them understand the difference between high school and college, just getting them into the groove of the college scene.
Joe: This year you are doing some of the work out with the posts and some with the wings. So now you are doing double out there. The last dozen games you stepped it up. Was there something particular that led to that improvement?
AT: I think that it was just my confidence level. I wasn’t very confident at the beginning of the season becoming a guard again. It was definitely something I wanted to do but I’m hard on myself so when things weren’t going well, I just got down on myself and I wasn’t really able to pick myself up. But my teammates and coaches have been great. They have talked me through a lot of stuff and put me in the right position to be the player that I am right now.
Joe: One of the things I noticed even back in the summer, you mentioned that helping Shai and Bre’ along, the post group seems to be exceptionally close. Last year it was largely you and Jaisa. This year, you have multiple posts: some large bodies and some quick bodies. How has that made you stretch in practice?
AT: First I want to give praise the coaching staff because they have recruited exceptionally well. I think that’s a big thing for teams to be able to pick out the right players to bring to the program. Our team is extremely athletic all the way from the point guard to post. It’s crazy how much athleticism and length we have and I think that gives us a great advantage when we play certain teams. We can get up and down the court, score a lot of points and defend very well since we are so long. Practicing against different kinds of posts has made me work on different things and it’s helped me get better when I play different kinds of players.
Joe: You had some teams pre-conference that tried to run with you–that usually didn’t go very well for them.
AT: Yeah, we work on transition a lot in practice and that is a strength of ours.
Joe: Where do you think you have improved besides the confidence?
AT: My shooting. I’m able to stretch the floor now and not just able to take the lay-ups. I think that was a big improvement to our game and I took it upon myself to work on it during the summer. I think it has paid off.
Joe: When teams double team Jaisa that has opened up some 10-foot shots for you, and you’ve been making them. Where are the areas that you feel you need to still work on?
AT: Definitely, my 3-point shot–I need to be more consistent. I’m pretty consistent from the top of the arc, but I want to be able to hit it from anywhere. I think that’s the biggest thing I need to work on, and not fouling. I seem to foul a lot in the first half whether it’s actually a foul or not, I seem to get called.
Joe: Fouls and get called for fouls are not always the same, it seems. Outside of basketball, what are your interests?
AT: I like to watch movies. I’m actually a pretty relaxed person. I watch movies, play video games, and do homework. That’s about it.
Joe: What kind of movies to you like?
AT: Pretty much anything. If I see it on Netflix, or hear about it from Nike (Nike has probably watched everything on Netflix). If I want something new to watch, I say, “Hey Nike, suggest something for me.” I definitely get a lot of movies from her.
Joe: I hear you guys went to the movies as a mass gaggle on the last trip. But you couldn’t talk coach into it?
AT: [Laughs.] No, he likes to relax and wind down for the day and talk to his family on the phone.
Joe: I think that’s kind of normal, typical. When we check back in five years, where are we going to find you?
AT: In five years, I’ll probably be in a PA school because I want to be a Physician’s Assistant. I should be finishing up in about five years.
Joe: What got you interested in that?
AT: I have always wanted to be in the medical field. First it was a pediatrician, then a sports physician, now it’s a physician’s assistant. I just keep changing around, but medical has always been my main focus since I was in school.
Joe: My family has lots of medical folks; I’m not sure how I escaped it. What about your basketball future? Are you interested in playing after college?
AT: It’s a possibility. I’m not really sure what it will happen in a couple of years, but with my decision to go to PA school which takes 2-3 years to complete, right now I think I’ll be done after my time at UNM.
Joe: And ten years?
AT: That’s a long time. I’m not sure. I definitely want to be in Texas, my home state, hopefully working as a PA somewhere in that area. I love it there. I have all my family there and I definitely want to be close to my family. I’m big on that. My little brothers are growing up now, so hopefully I’ll be closer to them and get to see them grow into young men.
Joe: Are you the oldest?
AT: Yes.
Joe: What got you into basketball?
AT: First, I was really a track runner. I just started playing basketball because I could. It was fun, when you are young you just play anything. When I got to high school, I made varsity my freshman year but still wasn’t really into it, I was just playing at it. My sophomore year, we got a new coach. He was just a really great person, a great mentor in basketball. He got me on the right AAU team and really built my skill set. At that point, I fell in love with the game. So I switched over from track to basketball and it worked out.
Joe: It seems like half the roster started in track.
AT: Definitely. Track’s a good building block.
Joe: Being able coordinated and running fast helps in most things. What brought you out here?
AT: Really, I don’t know. When I got the call from Coach Aarika Hughes when she was out here, I was like, “New Mexico? I don’t know if I want to come out there. I didn’t know anything about it. But I took the visit and I actually loved it. It surprised me. I really did have much expectations but, once I got to talking with Cherise and Lenah–they were my guides–they were talking about the fan base and how The Pit was pretty cool. I was able to walk down and take pictures down there. The coaching staff, they really just talked to me about the type of player they wanted. They thought this was a good fit for me, and I thought it was.
Joe: It’s really not that far.
AT: Anywhere you go, you’re not going to go home a lot unless you can drive like Jaedyn. So this wasn’t that big of a deal. I felt this was the right place for me.
Joe: Is your family coming out to Las Vegas?
AT: Yes. My Mom is definitely going to be there. Hopefully, my Dad can make it. Not sure yet, but my Mom will be there.
Joe: Good. Hopefully you guys get to play a lot of games in front of them out there.
AT: All the way to Wednesday!
Joe: You have the mic now, so what else do you want to say?
AT: I think the big thing is appreciation for our fans. They continue to support us. We didn’t have the best season last year, and with us being a young team I don’t think a lot of people expected a lot from us this year as we were picked for 5th place. But the fan support is unconditional and that is appreciated a lot. Especially when they come to practice and when they come talk to us. It’s really nice to get that face-to-face contact with fans.
Joe: It goes the other way, too. You guys make it easy to come out. Even if people don’t sign your arms as they do Nike’s.
AT: That’s okay. I don’t really want my arms signed. If you want to sign my shirt that’s okay, I’m all for it, but my arms, probably not.
Joe: I’m just waiting for the time they sign with an indelible marker.
AT: She was definitely scrubbing for a while with the sharpie.
Joe: Again, thank you very much for taking the time and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow.