Disability doesn't stop Florida star
Landus Anderson has become one of the top high school players in the Florida Panhandle.
His numbers for the Florida High Seminoles are good (19.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game), but his game is really impressive.
The slender 6-4, 170-pound junior gets it done without the use of his right arm or hand.
As a result of an injury he suffered at birth, the soft-spoken Anderson can't dribble the ball with his right hand or use it with any effectiveness on defense or to rebound.
"I wish I could go right, go right with my right arm," Anderson concedes, but adds, "I think I'm pretty good how I am, with what I have." said Anderson, who made the varsity lineup in his freshman year.
"He gets the ball off the rim and is out and gone, running past people down the floor," marvels Florida High coach Al Blizzard. "You're not going to stop him in the open court, I don't care what level you're on."
Anderson's speed and quickness offset any perceived inability to go to his right and though he doesn't have any scholarship offers yet, his coach believes Anderson's overall talent is good enough to play in college. In addition to his scoring and rebounding, he averages 2.5 blocked shots and 2.9 steals a game. Anderson plans to play AAU basketball this spring to showcase his talents to college recruiters.
"A kid like Landus and his ability to play basketball, they come through every 20 or 30 years," said Curtis Miller, a veteran AAU coach who had Anderson on his 16-and-under Team Florida Extreme that played 30 games across the southeast last summer. "He's a talent. He can shoot outside, he can take it inside, he can overpower you skill wise, has basketball IQ. The sky is the limit."
Anderson averaged 21.5 points and eight assists a game to lead Miller's AAU team last summer that made it to the Final Four of the Team Nike AAU tournament in Orlando.
"He'll have no problem playing at the next level," Miller said. "It's hard work, dedication. This kid is the total package."
Anderson and Florida High didn't qualify for this week's state basketball championships, but he was at his best against the best this season.
He scored 71 points in three games against Tallahassee Lincoln, a 7A school — the largest classification in Florida. He had a season-high 34 points in a win over 5A Wakulla. The Seminoles also defeated two of the schools that advanced to the state finals. Anderson had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in a 66-60 overtime loss to East Gadsden High School that ended the Seminoles (20-6) season.
Blizzard says Anderson's outside shot and free throw shooting rivals that of his son Brett, who enjoyed a record-setting collegiate career at North Carolina-Wilmington a decade ago and now plays professionally in Italy.
But with one big difference: Anderson manages his shots with one hand, like he does with everything else.
Anderson learned at an early age that he had to work twice to achieve success — even daily tasks like learning to tie his shoes didn't come easy. He got those tough life lessons from his parents and his grandmother, Bernice Cummings.
"He has a determination that's so unique," said his mother Pamela Anderson, a Gadsden County deputy sheriff. "He's not a complainer. He's not a whiner. It wasn't easy, but Landus made it easier."
His condition is medically defined as Erb's Palsy, a paralysis caused by injury to the upper group of the arm's main nerves. Although range of motion is recovered in many children by their first birthday, individuals who have not healed by then rarely gain full function of the limb.
Anderson has no control of his fingers on the right hand and the arm is noticeably withered and virtually useless in competition.
"They can't fix the damaged nerves, but at birth I had a muscle transfer in my bicep area," said Anderson, who is almost a straight A student as well. "They could've done one down low, but my mother didn't want them to experiment on me."
His mother did want him in a school with a strong academic tradition. So she had her son apply to Florida High, the teaching high school of Florida State University, when he was an eighth grader.
"Even though I know he's always loved basketball, we've always had to have a backup plan just in case," Pamela Anderson said. "Once I realized his norm was no longer his peer's norm, I knew we didn't have any other option and failure is definitely not one."
Although his parents divorced before Anderson began school, they've both stayed involved in his life. He lives with his mother during the week and spends time with his father on weekends.
Landus, who wears a size 13 shoe and doesn't turn 17 until May, also has a good basketball lineage on his father's side of the family. His dad, Lindsey Anderson, played at Florida A&M in the early 1970s and a raft of uncles and cousins have played college ball throughout the South.
"He has basketball in his blood," said Lindsey Anderson, a state probation officer.
Blizzard, his high school coach, said it's more than that.
"It's easy when your best player is also your hardest worker," Blizzard said. "That's why he's at where he's at."