Honorable Draftee: The Case for Charlie Anderson
Coaching Basketball at an HBCU Hobdy had built a reputation as the premier destination to acquire professional ball players. 13 players from the program had gone on to be drafted by the professional basketball ranks. With names like James Jones, Wilbert Frazier, Willis Reed, Hershell West, Charles Hardnett, Bob McCoy and Bob Hopkins.
Grambling’s effect on local black players was all but signed sealed and deliver for the state’s top basketball talent. If a black player grew up in Louisiana and a Division one college like LSU wanted him the recruiting battle wasn’t from Tulane or Louisiana Tech it was often with Grambling. LSU for example had recruited Aaron James and Collis Temple. They got Temple but lost the gem of the recruiting period Aaron James to Grambling unheard of today but not uncommon then.
During the height of power Grambling had three players on its 1971 team that the professional ranks were salivating for senior guard Fred Hilton, freshmen phenom Aaron James and junior “Sweet” Charlie Anderson. To win the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC) was no small feat. The conference was loaded with highly competitive teams that had future professional basketball talents from schools Jackson State, Alcorn State, Southern and Texas Southern.
The 1971 Grambling team went 16 -8 and headed into the NAIA championship tournament. They would advance to the quarter-finals where they would met last year’s champion Kentucky State. Lucias Mitchell the head coach of Kentucky State had his own highly coveted professional basketball prospects in Elmore Smith and Travis Grant.
The game was a defensive fight as Hobdy decided to double team Grant and Smith every time they got the ball. Despite the size advantage the halftime score was 38-35. Then things began to change. Kentucky State’s William Graham seized the opportunity and made Grambling pay finishing the game with 25 points. By the time the time Grambling’s defense began to adjust the game was well out of hand. Anderson played well finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds while limiting Travis Grant to 21 points. Which was no small feat when you consider Grant was a 30 plus scorer that year. Grambling would lose 81 to 93 Kentucky State would go on to win a consecutive NAIA national title. Hilton would go on to the professional ranks being selected by the Buffalo Braves in the 1971 NBA Draft 19th overall in the second round.
Hobdy look towards the bright future with Charlie Anderson and Aaron James. Coach also was nervous as rumors began to swirl that Charlie Anderson could declare himself a hardship case and pass up his final year of eligibility.
The buzz was a consensus of scouts rated Anderson one of the 12 best players in NAIA in an article written by Jim Bukata of the Sporting News. But that was something he would discuss later with Anderson.
The basketball team returned to campus and immediately Coach Hobdy jumped in the car and drove to see blue chip prospect Louis Dunbar in a Class AA championship game. When he checked in to the hotel a message was waiting for him informing him of Anderson’s passing. Just mere hours after playing his final game against Kentucky State Charlie Anderson was killed by a car that struck him.
The victim of a hit and run. Apparently Anderson was walking about a block away from the campus when the accident happened. Anderson didn’t die at the scene but did succumb to his injuries at St. Francis Hospital later that night. The driver of the automobile Reginald O’Dell a Grambling student himself was booked with negligent homicide. At the time of this writing I was unable to track down if he was convicted.
Till the day of his death former Grambling Head basketball Coach Fred Hobdy would be haunted by the passing of his star. He never really got over it because he felt that Charlie Anderson would be on that list of great Grambling players in the professional ranks. Aaron James remarked that Charlie Anderson was one of the reasons why he went to Grambling. Not only did he feel Anderson was a great person but said he was better player than himself by quite a bit.
The 21 year old Anderson left behind a wife and son who the school attempted to help with a memorial fund drive. In a fitting tribute Grambling’s teammates voted Anderson the team captain of the 71-72 Grambling team.
The Draft Review applauds Charlie Anderson for his collegiate accolades and recognizes him as a player that should have been a part of the 1972 NBA draft class. We include Charlie Anderson in our list of honorable draftees.
- Written by Matthew Maurer