UK Men's Basketball

Liggins could learn from Ex-Reb Anthony

Greg Anthony, who makes his debut as a college basketball commentator for CBS at Saturday's Kentucky-Indiana game, once sprinted, cut and made the defensive slides that DeAndre Liggins makes now.

The talented — but still learning — UK freshman reminds Anthony of his days as a hot-shot player on the make at UNLV.

No, Anthony never refused to re-enter a game. But he said he'd probably use a story about himself on the UK-IU telecast that shows how young players have more to learn than they think.

Early in his sophomore season, Anthony led the Runnin' Rebels to a victory over nationally ranked DePaul in the Maui Invitational. He scored more than 20 points, had more than five assists and five rebounds and three or four steals.

"My chest was all out," he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "I could not have felt better about myself as a basketball player. Jerry West and NBA scouts were there. On the way to the locker room, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, 'Wow, I may have to think of going (to the NBA early).' "

UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian, a man Anthony revered, came up and put an arm around his shoulder.

"Greg, great game," Tarkanian told Anthony. "We wouldn't have won without you."

Then, Anthony added, "As soon as I started to smile, he goes, 'But that's not what I need from my point guard.'

"It crushed me. I mean, it absolutely crushed me, mostly because I didn't understand what he was saying."

Anthony came to understand Tarkanian's message. If the point guard monopolized the ball, he wasn't getting his teammates involved. He wasn't leading.

Looking back, Anthony saw himself as a talent. He wasn't yet a player.

The difference? "To play with a purpose," Anthony said. "A lot of guys, I call basketball talent as opposed to basketball players. There are a lot of players who can run, jump, shoot, pass, defend, rebound. They can do it all.

"But they don't know when to do it. They don't always value the possession. They don't always have that sense of urgency."

UK Coach Billy Gillispie has spoken of Liggins' rapid improvement. The SEC named Liggins its Freshman of the Week last week.

"He's a wonderful talent," Anthony said. "He's got all the tools in the world to be a great player. He's just got to learn how to play."

Kentucky surely hopes Liggins learned a lesson late last month when he refused to re-enter a game against Kansas State. Although his teammates apparently asked Gillispie to give Liggins full playing rights the next night against West Virginia and all has gone swimmingly ever since, Anthony said a true test has yet to come.

"When adversity rears its ugly head again, that's when you find out if all is really forgiven," the CBS commentator and former UNLV star said. "It's kind of like cheating on your wife. They might forgive, but they never forget."

Anthony joined most observers in declaring that Kentucky's success this season rests with the development of its guards.

"Kentucky, talent-wise, is still one of the top 10 programs this year," Anthony said. "They have talent, but they're also struggling at the guard position. As we know, in college basketball, you're only as good as your guards."