MISSOULA — The past two months have been a whirlwind of a spin move for Mack Anderson.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Bozeman finished that spin move with a dunk felt 200 miles to the west when he tweeted his commitment to Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball on Monday night. A composite two-star recruit, he became the first verbal commit in Montana’s class of 2018 when he chose the Griz over Montana State and Air Force.
“It was just a culmination of everything,” Anderson said in a phone conversation Monday night about why he chose Montana. “The program is great, and they just keep getting better. It’s close to home but not in Bozeman. My relationship with the staff, that’s gotten a lot better over the last couple of months. And it was good getting to know them, too. And it just felt like the right fit overall. And the way they play and everything, too. It felt like the right decision to me.”
Anderson’s commitment was the conclusion of a 51-day recruiting stretch. He received his first of three Division I offers on July 16 from Montana State. The Griz came along with their offer on Aug. 2 and Air Force, a Mountain West team, offered him on Aug. 21.
He also talked with and visited Boise State and Denver, and spoke with Washington State, Idaho, Portland, South Dakota and Colgate, although no official offers were made, he said.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” he said of the past two months. “A lot of thought. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It’s just weird kind of coming from nothing in the recruiting process to kind of blowing it up the last couple of months. It’s been good.”
Anderson was leaning toward Montana “for a little while” and decided to commit Monday because he didn’t want to lose the opportunity since the Griz currently have just one scholarship available for the class of 2018.
He said he visited all three schools that made offers and went on an unofficial visit to Montana during the team’s practices for its trip to Costa Rica in late July or early August. It was his first time visiting the Montana campus although he’s been to Missoula before to play basketball.
“The facilities and also just the relationships they have there,” Anderson said of his takeaways from the visit. “It just felt like a big family. It felt like it wasn’t a tough decision to make really. I mean it was between Montana State and Montana because of the relationships I built with those coaches. I wasn’t worried about making the decision either way.”
The offers began to come in while he was playing AAU basketball with Montana Elite after the high school season. He was primarily recruited by Montana associate head coach Chris Cobb, who he said contacted him after a game in Seattle.
"He grew a little bit after last season, he put on some weight and strength, and most importantly his confidence grew," Bozeman coach Wes Holmquist said. "He is a completely different player than he was last March for us."
Anderson was recruited to play either power forward or center, he said. He added he’ll be comfortable at either position but would like to develop into a “solid” power forward.
“I think that I can score it,” he said. “I just want to get bigger and stronger, but score the ball … and we’ll see when I get there. But I’m ready to do whatever they want me to do.”
At Bozeman, he’ll play small forward, power forward and center this season. It’ll be his first season as a regular starter after he primarily came off the bench last year.
As a junior, he averaged 2.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game and shot 77.8 percent on free throws in 23 contests. In the state tournament, he averaged 3.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Holmquist described him as a lengthy, athletic slasher who is more comfortable playing while facing the basket and has shown an ability to run the floor and finish in transition.
"He has been working hard on improving with his back to the basket," Holmquist said. "He can put the ball on the floor, outlet the ball, and is really, really good at running to the rim. ... The area I saw the most improvement was his confidence to get defensive rebounds, put the ball on the floor to create space, and either outlet and get it back in transition or even be able to get all the way to the rim and finish on his own.
"Mack can play above the rim on both ends of the floor. His length and aggressiveness around the rim is impressive and unprecedented in our league. He can get up quick, and he is explosive. Mack's length and athleticism don't come around every day."
Anderson said during the recruiting process he talked things through with Holmquist, Montana Elite coach Brad Huse, his teammates, his parents and his sister.
Huse is a former Montana State coach, and although he could have pushed Anderson to choose the Bobcats, Anderson said Huse never tried to sway him toward Montana State.
Anderson’s mom, who played one year of Division III basketball in Pennsylvania, got her master’s degree at Montana State but never pushed him toward the Bobcats either, he said.
Before Anderson comes to Missoula, he and the Hawks are hoping they can win the Class AA state championship after they lost 46-42 to Kalispell Glacier this past winter. Bozeman doesn’t return any of its starters, but Anderson still has big expectations for the season.
“We want to win it this year,” he said. “We have a really good team. We have a lot of good payers. No one really coming back, so it’s a really different team. But I'm excited to see how we do, and we're ready to work and do whatever it takes to get back to that game. So that’s our goal.”
Montana coaches aren’t allowed to comment on an incoming player until that player signs a National Letter of Intent. The early signed period for men’s basketball is Nov. 8-15.
Anderson is believed to be the first Bozeman High School boys basketball player to play for the Griz.