Thursday, February 2, 2012

Anosike Approaches Phillip's Double-Double Mark

Before there was O.D. Anosike there was Darren Phillip.

Anosike enters Friday's game against Saint Peter's at Albany, N.Y.,'s Times Union Center with a national-best 17 consecutive double-doubles.

Think it's easy to record double figures in two different statistical categories, in Anosike's case points and rebounds, for 17 straight games?

It has only been done twice in all of Division I basketball in the past 15 years. Once by someone you might have heard of ... future NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who also had 17 straight in the 1996-97 season.

And, someone you probably haven't heard of unless you're a long-time fan of the MAAC.

That would be Phillip, a bruiser of a 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward who played four seasons at Fairfield.

As a senior Phillip not only led the country in rebounds (14.0 per game), but recorded a double-double in the last 19 games he played that season.

That streak of double-doubles is the longest by any Division I player, according to NCAA record, since the 1984-85 season when Benoit Benjamin, a 7-foot-0 center at Creighton, had 28 straight. Benjamin went on to be the third player picked in the 1985 NBA draft and played 15 professional seasons.

Phillip, though, is the all-time record-holder for consecutive double-doubles by any MAAC player, He is also the only player from the conference to lead all Division I players in rebounding in the history of the MAAC.

Anosike, though, is poised not only to challenge and, maybe, shatter Phillip's double-double record, but to become the second conference player to lead the country in rebounding. Anosike's current rebound average of 12.8 per game is more than a full rebound ahead of second-place Thomas Robinson (11.7) of Kansas.

At a listed 6-8, 232 pounds, Anosike is a near physical match for Phillip's dimensions. And, like Phillip, Anosike's high-energy style of play enables him to be an elite rebounder.

Phillip was recruited by then-Fairfield coach Paul Cormier (who now coaches at Dartmouth). But, the Fairfield big man lost parts of two seasons (he only played 16 games as a freshman and 20 as a sophomore) when the NCAA ruled that a math course he took in high school did not qualify for the required 13 core courses athletes needed to be eligible to play at the college level.

A strong student otherwise, Phillip brought legal action the NCAA and won back money his family had to pay for him to attend college as a freshman. But, he could never regain the games he lost and Fairfield's teams suffered those seasons.

Prior to Phillip's junior year the school replaced Cormier as coach with Tim O'Toole, who now does color commentary work for selected MAAC TV games.

Phillip then averaged 9.9 rebounds per game as a junior and, then, had his spectacular senior season.

"Darren had a very strong motor," wrote O'Toole, in an e-mail response for an interview. "He had a strong desire to rebound and one of the things we did immediately when we got there was ask him his goals?  I then asked him could he lead the Nation in rebounding? He kind of replied yes and then we got specific on how many he would need and how he could do it.

"The points on the other hand, he worked equally as hard. He ran well. Conditioning was very important for him because of the nature of playing a center. He had to go 94 feet and he had to play 30 feet wide to hunt down long rebounds. However he wanted the ball and really knew how to use his body."

O'Toole opted not to return phone calls to speak further about Phillip, and Phillip, who is still playing professional overseas, could not be reached to talk about his college career.

In case you were wondering ... the all-time NCAA record for double-doubles is 40, held by Billy Cunningham (North Carolina), and the list of players with at least 20 is a who's who of players who went on to successful careers.

Behind Cunningham came Jerry Lucas (38), Oscar Robertson (33), Mel Counts (30), Lew Alcindor and Benjamin (28), Artis Gilmore (27), Willie Nauls (25) Lucas, again (23), Mike Lewis (21), and Jack Twyman, Jerry West, Jim Haderlem and Steve Smith (20 each).

The record for the most double-doubles over a career, not necessarily in succession, is held by Duncan with 987, followed by Ralph Sampson (84), Derrick Coleman (83) and former MAAC standout Lionel Simmons (83). Simmons, though, never approached the consecutive double-double totals of either Phillip and Anosike.

It surely bears watching to see if Anosike's string continues to grow. With a full month of play remaining this season and, then, a senior year ahead next season, Anosike's consecutive double-double list could go on for some time.

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