By LARRY VAUGHT
One reason Frank Anselem wanted to move from Atlanta to California fto play basketball for Prolific Prep last season was the challenge of playing against better competition to help him improve his game.
“When you are playing the best teams every night you get better. We were flying in, flying out (to different games) and playing the best teams every night,” said Anselem. “It was hard but if you want to get to the next level, that’s what you do. Why not play against the best teams so you have to get better? I was not okay where I was. I wanted to get better and feel like I did.”
Now he’s high on the Kentucky recruiting radar because of the size, defensive ability and overall athleticism he could bring to a team without a true big for next season.
He averaged 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game for Prolific Prep, which finished 31-3 and won the Grind Session national championship. He played with two of the nation’s best players, wings Jalen Green and Nimari Burnett, and understood he had to adjust his play to fit what the team needed.
“I feel like depending on the team you are on, you have to adjust your style of play. For Prolific, I had a lot of work to do, especially defensively,” Anselem said. “With how fast Jalen and Nimari played, I had to be the first one down the floor so they could pass to me. That’s just the way I had to play for our team. They were both great players and I had to shift my game to fit with their game. If I was on another team without as much talent, maybe I would not have played that way.”
Obviously that willingness to sacrifice is a trait that would fit well at Kentucky where he would also be surrounded by five-star talent if he picks the Cats. However, Anselem does things that fit with UK’s style, especially the fast pace UK likely will play next season.
“I would say I am faster than most players my size,” Anselem said. “I am slender and lean. I can push my body. There are not a lot of 6-10 players who can do that.”
Anselem has the length and lateral versatility to switch and guard smaller, quicker players on defense — something UK coach John Calipari demands of his bigs. Anselem even notes how the NBA is looking for bigs who can stay with guards.
“If you have to switch and do that in the pros, why not college? The Houston Rockets play small ball so they can eliminate the pick-and-roll and disrupt the other team’s offense,” Anselem said. “I feel I can do it and can move my feet well enough to do that. I can switch and guard smaller players which is something you have to do at the elite level.”
His advisor, Julius Smith, says Anselem is a better outside shooter than many realize. Anselem says he’s been about a 75 percent free throw shooter but knows his shooting accuracy can improve.
“But I didn’t need to take a lot of jump shots with Prolific,” Anselem said. “If I had done that, who would have rebounded? Nimari and Jalen could shoot the hell out of the ball. Somebody has to shoot and somebody has to rebound, so I would just go get it.”
Prolific Prep coach Joey Fuca says Anselem “embraced” his role and would definitely do the same at Kentucky.
“He’s a very coachable kid. He will rebound, run the floor, finish at the rim. Whatever you need, he will do his best to do it,” Fuca said. “He came in here with high expectations and did a good job of just getting better all year. He will easily adapt to the speed of the game in college, too, because he can really run and play.”
What about Kentucky? How would the spotlight be for him?
“If he decided that’s where he was going to college, he would flourish,” Fuca said. “They are amazing at getting guys ready for the next level (NBA) and Frank loves to work to make his skills even better. He handled all the attention on our program and is such a great kid he can handle anything.”