By MIKE ECKERT, AND DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY — It was a roller-coaster 2011 for Suttons Bay star Dwaun Anderson.
There was the high of winning Mr. Basketball in March, the first northern Michigan player to do so since the award was started in 1981.
There was the low, the death of his mother in May.
Then, following that, his difficult decision to leave Michigan State, where he would have been a freshman this season, and his signing with upstart Wagner College.
The saga is the Record-Eagle's No. 2 local sports story of 2011.
"It was definitely a learning year," Anderson said of his 2011. "I learned a lot about myself and what I want. It was a positive year. Well, not with everything, but I grew a lot from everything that happened."
The year started with Anderson wrapping up his senior year at Suttons Bay with a 17-5 campaign. He averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
Anderson's career numbers were also strong. Over his four years, he scored 1,636 points, 561 rebounds, 259 assists and 199 steals and was an AP First Team All-Stater three times.
But then the big hardware came on March 21, when he captured Mr. Basketball. Being named the state's top basketball player, though, came with a lot of pressure.
"Now, it's kind of bittersweet," Anderson said. "I get comments like I'm not deserving. But, I'm still proud of myself for getting it. And the adversity, I've always been good at getting past that."
After graduating from Suttons Bay — where Michigan State coach Tom Izzo spoke at commencement — Anderson headed to East Lansing for summer classes and workouts with the basketball team. But it wasn't right. The pressure and expectations, coupled with a lot going on in his personal life after the death of his mother, led to his decision to leave the program.
"It was tough to look Tom Izzo in the eyes and tell him I had to leave," Anderson said. "But he understood. He's one of my biggest supporters now. When I talk to him, he always asks if there's anything he can do for me. That show how good of a guy he is."
After re-visiting the recruiting process, Anderson soon after committed to Wagner College in New York City, where he'll play for head coach Dan Hurley, as well as his brother and former Duke standout, Bobby, who is an assistant.
"He's excited about Wagner," Todd Hursey, his high school coach said. "Wagner's mantra is they want to be the Butler of the East," said Todd Hursey, Anderson's coach at Suttons Bay. "They play good teams. The Hurleys are turning that program around quickly."
Already this season, Wagner had defending NCAA champion UConn on the ropes in its opener before losing. They then upset Pittsburgh.
Anderson will head to Wagner this week and enroll as in a general management program. He'll be eligible to play basketball in Jan. 2013.
"We are excited to add a student-athlete of Dwaun's caliber to the program," Wagner coach Dan Hurley said in a press release. "His athletic ability and skill set fit our style of play perfectly. He will step in and become a prolific scorer from day one."