By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Jestin Anderson took part in the glory days of the Marty Bell era, first as a player and then as a graduate assistant coach.
Now, he wants to help the Quincy University men's basketball team return to that form in his latest role as Bell's top assistant coach. QU announced Anderson's hire Thursday morning.
"There's only a couple dream jobs that I have, and Quincy is obviously one of them, just because it's my alma mater," Anderson said.
Anderson played for QU from 2002-06. He was freshman during the final season of Mike Foster's tenure before playing three seasons for Bell. Anderson was a key reserve guard for QU during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, when the Hawks went a combined 40-21 and made the NCAA Division II Tournament both seasons.
Anderson then remained at QU for two more seasons as a graduate assistant, and the Hawks went 36-23 and added another NCAA Tournament berth during that time.
Anderson rejoins a program that is coming off of a 12-15 season – marking Bell's first losing campaign since Quincy went 11-17 in his first season in 2003-04. Anderson was a sophomore that season and experienced how a team can take off just a year later. He sees the same potential with Bell's current squad.
"I think it could turn around pretty quickly," Anderson said. "The group that we have is pretty young, but they all have experience, the sophomores and juniors. They've all seen the league.
"That's kind of how we were Marty's first year, and then going into his second year, we kind of understood what he wanted, and we understood what the league was like. We understood what it took to get to the point we wanted to be. Just meeting with the guys I've talked to, I think this group is kind of understanding that."
Anderson brings five years of assistant coaching experience at junior colleges to the table. After leaving QU, he was an assistant coach at NJCAA Division I Lake Land (Ill.) College for three seasons, before serving the past two seasons as the lone assistant coach at NJCAA Division I Pratt (Kan.) Community College.
"He's got a lot of connections on a couple of fronts," Bell said. "No. 1, he's been out recruiting these players to the junior college. And then he's on the other side of it when the four-year colleges come knocking. He's dealt with Division I guys, Division II guys. He's made some good contacts over five years with some D1 guys that can always help us with transfers and with exhibition games. All those kinds of things, those relationships he's cultivated, can do nothing but help us."
Bell said Anderson's top strength is his ability to relate with athletes and help enhance their growth.
"He is very good with player development – working with kids one on one, whether it be academically or on the court," Bell said.
The announcement of Anderson's hiring comes exactly three weeks after the announced departure of Jon Perry, Bell's associate coach who left to take an assistant coaching position at Navy.
Anderson said he interviewed with Bell for the assistant coaching position that Perry was hired for prior to the 2010-11 season. Gaining more experience, specifically at Pratt, where Anderson had a lot of recruiting responsibilities, made Anderson an even more appealing option this time around.
"(Coaching at Pratt) helped me over the last few years to grow as a coach and a person and be a better assistant coach," Anderson said. "I think Marty saw that, and that's one of the reasons he wanted to bring me in when this opportunity came about."
Anderson said Bell reached out to him about the position last month after it became a possibility that Perry might be headed to Navy.
"Maybe a week before Jon left, Marty called me up and asked if I'd be interested in it," Anderson said. "To be honest, the situation that I was in was a good one. It was actually a great situation. I think the team that we have coming back at Pratt is a good one with a bunch of good kids. It's tough to leave those kids behind."
Returning to a familiar environment helps make it a move worth making.
"When Marty called me with an opportunity, it was just something I couldn't pass up," said Anderson, who interviewed in Quincy last week. "When I did the interview, it was great to be back in town and back in the community.
"That's one of the things that draws me back to Quincy is the town, the people of Quincy and the people of Quincy University."