One of the most telling moments in Camille Anderson’s senior season was also one of the scariest.
When she went down with a knee injury in the Class AAAA semifinals against Fayette County and screamed out in pain, the Buford senior’s primary concern wasn’t her own health. Her biggest fear was not being able to help her team finish its quest for a state title.
Once she got the word from her athletic trainer that it wasn’t a torn ACL, she walked up to coach Gene Durden. He had just told his players they were going to have to play the rest of the game without their leader. Then Anderson tapped him on the shoulder and told him, “No, you’re not, Coach. I’m ready to play.”
“For her to do that and worry about her team more than her own individual self, that shows what type of player and what type of person she is,” Durden said.
Anderson averaged 15.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and two steals in leading the 30-3 Lady Wolves to the Class AAAA championship a year after falling in the Class AAA finals to St. Pius X.
For her efforts, Anderson is The Times’ All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Always playing up
Anderson began playing basketball at the age of 6 or 7 when she was living in Michigan. She started with the sport at the YMCA.
She and her father, Deollo Anderson, would work on her game in their driveway. Anderson said she tried “every other sport.” But her father noticed she enjoyed basketball the most.
“He’s pretty much been the backbone of my success,” Anderson said.
Anderson said every summer she would be on teams with older players. The competition and team aspects of basketball won her over.
‘A warrior’s heart’
Durden said Anderson’s natural position is on the wing. With freshman Tory Ozment scheduled to be Buford’s point guard in 2014-15, Durden and Anderson thought the senior standout would end up on the wing. Then Ozment suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Anderson moved back to being the Lady Wolves’ primary ball-handler.
“Camille has had a warrior’s heart for the past two years,” Durden said. “We’ve asked so much out of her.”
The coach said simply looking at Anderson’s scoring statistics sells short the all-around impact she made for Buford. Anderson would play defense on the opponent’s best guard and also led the Lady Wolves in defensive rebounds.
Anderson said she didn’t mind having to play out of position. The way she looked at it, the ability to play multiple spots meant more time on the floor.
“It really didn’t matter to me because I just love playing basketball,” Anderson said.
‘Fire burning inside me’
Anderson marked reaching her third state championship game in her four seasons by not being able to practice with her knee injury. Instead, she had to be on a bike, go through rehab and rest while watching her teammates practice in the week leading up to the 35-34 title-game win against Carrollton.
“A fire was burning inside of me because I hadn’t missed a practice in four years of high school,” Anderson said. “It was kind of annoying.”
But there was no question if she would play in her final high school game with a long sought-after championship on the line, even though Durden said she was at 50-60 percent against Carrollton.
“She was going to go out and give her all no matter what,” Durden said.
Anderson said she was upset that she didn’t feel like she could help her team for much of the title game. But, sure enough, Anderson hit a crucial 3-pointer in a 7-0 run that helped Buford pull out the victory.
“I knew I had to push through and make some kind of basket,” Anderson said.
She finished with six points and earned her championship. When it came to her important 3-pointer, Anderson couldn’t help but think back to early-morning preseason shooting and workouts with Katy Bisges, Corey Staples and Chandler Hall. Those moments paved the way for her crucial shot.
“That’s just when the hard work pays off,” Anderson said.
‘Live that dream now’
Durden said Anderson was a “foundation piece” for his program. She didn’t lose a region game in four seasons.
In Anderson’s final two seasons, Buford went 60-6. Now, the N.C. State signee is about to take the next step in her career. Durden looks forward to seeing Anderson parlay her experience into the ability to adapt on the college level.
“She has tremendous upper-body strength,” Durden said.
But even with Anderson’s tremendous physical gifts, her intangibles should be her most valuable asset as she joins the Wolfpack program next season, according to Durden.
Anderson, meanwhile, said she loves her future coaches at N.C. State and is ready to get started.
“It’s going to be a great experience for me,” Anderson said. “I’ve been working really hard for this for a long time. I get to live that dream now.”