In our series of Fresh Faces articles, we will feature the newcomers set to join the Eagles for the upcoming 2020-21 season. As our first Summer Flyer has already highlighted Eli Abaev, we will be kicking off this series starting with Apopka High School graduate, Zach Anderson.
The name ‘Zach’ has been pretty good for the Eagles in their short tradition. The name is most notably attached to FGCU great, Zach Johnson, who became one of the top players in program history. More recently, the Eagles saw one of the better freshman seasons out of Zach Scott. Those Zach’s were scoring threats at the guard spots, but this Zach is different. This Zach is a 6’7″ wing/forward combo, meaning comparisons must come from something other than a shared name. Zach Anderson’s comparison is more in line with a legendary FGCU forward, whose shoes have never really been filled. But before we dive into that any further, let’s take a look at who Zach is as a person and a player.
Zach Anderson is set to join the Eagles as a freshman out of Apopka High School. Per FGCU Head Coach Michael Fly, “[Apopka is] one of the more respected high school programs. [Coach Williams] really runs a college-level program at the high school level.” Furthermore, the aforementioned Apopka High head coach, Scott Williams, was generous enough to comment on his former player’s journey to FGCU.
The Growth So Far
“Zach was a Varsity player for 3 years and, in that span, his growth on and off the floor is remarkable. On the court, he consistently improved his ability to play away from the basket (ball handling, decision making, shooting, etc.). Zach has also put in the work and preparation to really become a great defender, to the point where he guarded the other team’s best wing every night.“
Zach’s willingness to put in the work seems to have been infectious to the whole team. Coach Williams alluded to this off-court leadership, stating “Zach went from being a quiet, hardworking teammate, to a respected leader, through his work ethic and attitude, but also vocally, through encouragement and challenge. [Zach] is a young man of exceptional character who will represent the university in the best of ways.” Coach Fly was also impressed by this side of Zach. “[He] was a leader there. He would text me at 5:30 in the morning showing me that he’s in the gym getting work done with his teammates, and that wasn’t coach led, it was player led.“
With so much personal growth and development, Zach was also a part of some very successful Apopka teams. Per Coach Williams, “in his sophomore year we were district champs. In his junior year we were ranked #1 in the state but got upset in the district tournament, though we still finished as conference champs. As a Senior, Zach averaged 15 ppg and 9 rpg in a season that ended with a Regional Semifinals loss.”
Zach’s work ethic, development, and success are well noted. But an obvious part of his skill set and potential are his measurables. Most recently listed at 6’7″ and about 190 lbs, Zach has quite a bit of room to grow and develop physically. Coach Williams described this in detail. “Zach is LONG with a great wingspan. He will put on weight quickly with a good strength and conditioning program. I can see him at 6’8″ and upwards of 225 lbs in a few years. He is fluid and graceful but also relentless and fearless. This allowed him to play forward for us inside, as well as on the perimeter. Zach will be a natural ‘4’ or ‘3’ for FGCU.“
The Skill Set
Obviously, it will take a season or two with a college level training program for Zach to really fill his frame out and develop his craft. Coach Williams speculated on his potential role with FGCU. “Zach is consumed by making his team successful. He’ll likely begin his career in a(n) energy/rebounder/defender type role but has all the tools to develop into a very talented 3-level scorer. He is an exceptional offensive rebounder, which is probably his most obvious skill. But Zach’s greatest skill is how well-rounded he is as a player. He might not have any 10/10 skills, but he has the entire package of 8/10 skills.“
Coach Fly echoed a similar sentiment when asked about Zach. “[He’s a] 6’8″, skilled 4-man that can maybe play the 3 down the road. [He] can put the ball on the floor pretty well for a guy his size.“
A 6’7″/6’8″, skilled big with long arms, athleticism, and the potential to become a 3-level scorer. This skill set might remind some fans of a former FGCU star. The same thought was expressed by Coach Fly as well. “[A] long, rangy, skilled ‘4’ with athleticism. We’ve been trying to replace that skill set really since Fieler. [In fact] that’s one of the guys we showed [Zach] when recruiting him“
While there have been some good bigs to go through FGCU since Chase Fieler, none have really matched his particular set of skills. Demetris Morant was a close-range dunker and shot blocker. Marc-Eddy Norelia was an elite-level post scorer with a fantastic mid-range game. But Fieler had something different. He possessed a huge wingspan, even for his 6’7″ frame, and sneaky athleticism as well as outside shooting ability. If an opponent didn’t respect his shot, he could drain a 3. If an opponent stepped out on him, he could drive around the defender and attack the basket for a memorable dunk. Coach Fly has been looking for a big who combines those skills with the ability to run the floor for 40 minutes a night and he thinks he may have found that combination in Zach Anderson, if given time to develop.
What it Means
Obviously a comparison with an FGCU great like Chase Fieler is flattering for Zach and exciting for fans. But a comparison is just a comparison. Zach Anderson will have time to develop into the player he will become. His immediate expectations should be more in line with effort and work ethic rather than the pressure of filling the shoes of a legend. One thing that is for sure about Zach is that the people around him are proud, excited, and supportive of him. Per Coach Williams, “Zach and his family were a blessing to work with. Any coach/program will be better off having Zach and his family around. Coach Fly and his staff did a tremendous job recruiting him and making him a priority. I’m excited to see him mature and develop over the next 4 years at FGCU.“
As fans, we too are excited to see what Zach brings to the table and what the future holds for him and the team. But, for now, we stay in the present and welcome Zach Anderson to FGCU with arms open and wings up.