Cole Anderson has been a dead-eye shooter for the UCSB basketball team this season, having made 43.7% of his three-pointers and 50.5% of his shots overall.
Cole Anderson has been a dead-eye shooter for the UC Santa Barbara basketball team this season, having made 43.7% of his three-pointers and 50.5% of his shots overall. Credit: Jeff Liang / Noozhawk photo


Cole Anderson, the son of a former defensive back on the Cal Poly football team, has tightened up his own defense for UCSB basketball

One of the greatest shooters in California prep basketball history nearly followed his father’s cleat-steps into football.

And then someone took a shot at him.

“I played slot receiver in the seventh and eighth grades … and I liked it,” Cole Anderson said. “I was pretty good, too.

“But then I got slammed on my shoulder and my collarbone broke. I told my dad, ‘Sorry, I’m done … Can’t do it anymore.’”

Anderson veered onto the same singular path as his two older sisters to become one of the fastest basketball guns in the West.

“He’s as good a shooter as I’ve ever coached,” UC Santa Barbara coach Joe Pasternack said of his 6-foot-4 sophomore.

His father, Nick Anderson, had played free safety at Cal Poly during the 1980s. But Cole’s football injury kept him off the court for nearly half of that year’s club basketball season — an eternity for a young gym rat.

“He loves the game,” Pasternack said. “He’s in the gym more than anybody else on our team. After shootaround, he wants to keep shooting.

“Sometimes I have to kick him out and tell him to go home.”

Pasternack likes to bring Anderson off the bench as an offensive spark. It’s a new role for a player who won the Tri-River Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player Award during all four of his years as a starter at Clovis West High School near Fresno.

“I’m fine with that … I like trying to bring our team back up if we’re down,” Anderson told Noozhawk.

“Honestly, as long as we’re winning, I’m cool with anything.”

He’s helped turn the Gauchos into one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Their overall record of 17-3 represents the best 20-game start in school history.

UCSB has surged to the top of the Big West Conference standings with an 8-1 record. Thursday’s 65-64 thriller at Hawai‘i marked its 13th victory in the last 14 games.

Heating Up in Big West Play

The Anderson family, from left: parents Nick and Jill, and their children Cole, Emily and Megan. Emily played basketball for her parents’ alma mater of Cal Poly while Cole and Megan both starred for UC Santa Barbara, the Mustangs’ arch-rival. (Anderson family photo)

Anderson kept his own ball rolling at Hawai‘i by scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He’s reached double-figure scoring in each of the last five games while having made half of his three-pointers (11-for-22).

His three-point accuracy of 43.7% this season tops all Gauchos and his 31 makes are just one less than team-leader Miles Norris, a starting forward who won All-Big West honors last year.

“We’ll keep that competition going if we both keep shooting like that, but Miles has been shooting crazy,” Anderson said.

“I’ve been talking about how well Miles has been shooting, and hopefully he’ll keep that up throughout the year. I know he can.”

Cole is the youngest member of the Swish Family Anderson.

His oldest sister, Emily, led Cal Poly in three-point shooting during her senior year of 2017-2018.

His other sister, Megan, set a single-season record at San José State when she made 43.8% of her three-pointers (46-for-105) as a freshman.

Her career three-point percentage of .403 is also a record for the Spartans.

Cole joked about his sibling rivalries, alleging that, “By the time I got into the eighth grade, I don’t think Megan really wanted to challenge me to three-point shooting contests anymore … But she was a really good shooter, too.”

She was just 14 threes short of San José State’s career record of 199 when she transferred to UCSB before the 2020-2021 season. She graduated last year with 228 collegiate threes to her credit.

“It was a big deal, playing with her at the same school last year,” Anderson said. “It was cool to be able to go to her games sometimes and just follow her team. But it was kind of weird, too, coming into practice every day, and she would just be getting done with her practice.

“She still lives in Santa Barbara and comes to a lot of my games. She’s one of my big supporters. And my parents (Nick and Jill) come to almost every game, which is a huge deal to me.”

His next game is against their alma mater. Arch-rival Cal Poly will visit the Thunderdome for a game at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Etching His Name into Record Books

Clovis West High School honored Cole Anderson for breaking the school’s scoring record in 2021. He finished with 2,730 points, a total that ranks second in the CIF-Central Section record books. (Anderson family photo)

Anderson’s marksmanship remains the stuff of legends in the San Joaquin Valley. The 464 three-pointers he made at Clovis West rank third in state history and his 2,730 career points is second in the CIF-Central Section record books.

Gaucho recruiters targeted him during his junior season when he averaged 27 points per game, making a CIF-Central Section record 137 three-pointers, to lead Clovis West to the section’s Open Division final.

Former Modesto Christian coach Richard Midgley, who played for Pasternack when he was an assistant coach at Cal, pointed the Gauchos toward Anderson. Midgley is now a scout for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

“Cole played for those guys on the Chuck Hayes AAU team,” Pasternack said. “A lot of people were telling me what a prolific shooter he was, and I love guys who can shoot the ball.

“He took an unofficial visit to our Cal Poly game when JaQuori (McLaughlin) hit that game-winning shot. He saw the incredible environment at the Thunderdome that night … and then everything got shut down because of COVID.”

Anderson has proven to Pasternack that he’s more than just a three-point specialist. He’s shooting 50.5% overall — an exceptional statistic for a guard — while having made 21-of-31 attempts from inside the arc.

He’s averaging 7.3 points per game on a team loaded with scoring guards such as all-leaguer Ajay Mitchell and seniors Josh Pierre-Louis, Ajare Sanni and Calvin Wishart.

“He’s been labeled as a shooter, but he’s not just that — he’s a scorer,” Pasternack said. “He can drive the ball. He can pull up from two. He’s gotten great in coming off screens. He sets up his man. He sets up cuts.

“He’s a complete offensive player. I think we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg with him offensively.”

Anderson credits Clovis West coach Vance Walberg for his versatility as a scorer.

Walberg, a former head coach at Pepperdine, also served as an NBA assistant for the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.

He’s best known in coaching circles for having originated the dribble-drive, attack offense.

Walberg, meanwhile, knows Anderson as “probably the best shooter I’ve ever coached.”

Making a Perfect 10 Three-Point Shots

Cole Anderson, who made 10 consecutive three-pointers while scoring 51 points in one game for Clovis West High School, has quickened the release to his shot to get it past NCAA Division I defenders. (Jeff Liang / Noozhawk photo)

His protégé will be long remembered for the school-record 51 points he scored during a game against Bakersfield’s Garces Memorial. He set a state record in the game with 10 consecutive threes, nine of which came in the third quarter alone.

His outburst put Clovis West so far ahead that Walberg, in a show of sportsmanship, didn’t play him in the fourth quarter.

“A lot of people said that he started getting emotional while I was still in the game during the third quarter,” Anderson said of Walberg. “He’s obviously witnessed a lot, but it was something he’d never witnessed in three quarters, I guess, or something like that.

“Coach Walberg made a huge difference for me. He had a lot of experience in the NBA and in college.

“We won a lot and, most important, the practices prepared me for college practices. His approach was to be hard on me, which I think prepared me for college, as well.”

Pasternack, a taskmaster in his own right, said Anderson has been as receptive to coaching as any player he’s had.

“He wants me to coach him hard and demand of him because all he cares about is getting better,” he said. “The wonderful thing about Cole is that he doesn’t take anything personal.

“He knows his strengths, knows his weaknesses. He attacks his weaknesses as much as any young man I’ve ever coached in college basketball.”

One of Anderson’s biggest adjustments was to quicken his release to deal with the tight defense played in NCAA Division I basketball.

“One of our coaches, coach (Ben) Tucker, was telling me that I was passing up some shots because I wasn’t seeing that little opening that you get when you catch the ball,” Anderson said.

“I had to quicken my shot a little bit. I’m glad I did because it’s benefitting us.”

A Guarded Response

Cole Anderson, a starter for all four of his years on the Clovis West High basketball team, has responded well to his role as a spark off the bench for UCSB. He’s averaging just under 20 minutes a game of playing time this season. (Jeff Liang / Noozhawk photo)

But Pasternack didn’t start giving Anderson significant playing time — nearly doubling it from 10½ minutes a game as a freshman to 19.3 this season — until he improved as a defender.

He said he especially struggled dealing with the speed of the game off the ball.

Pasternack told him, “For us, you need to be a two-way player … You can’t just be a shooter. This isn’t football where you can just be a quarterback or a receiver. You have to be able to play defense, too.”

The work he put in with strength coach Luke Storey has turned his defense from a liability into an asset.

“Luke has done a remarkable job with him, getting him stronger and quicker,” Pasternack said. “We’ve seen improvements in all the P3 (Peak Performance Project) testing.

“It’s about learning our defensive system, too. As a freshman, it was hard for him. But now he’s getting better and better and better. He’s had some really good defensive games.”

Anderson admitted that he’d “get kind of nervous” while guarding some of last year’s opponents.

“I’d get onto the floor and be a little bit timid to get up into guys, worrying about their blowing by me,” he said. “But this year, I think I can move my feet a lot faster and can get up into guys physically.

“It’s all come together, and it feels good because, honestly, I wasn’t very good defensively last year.”

He’s also developed a strong chemistry with Mitchell, a fellow sophomore guard who leads the Gauchos with averages of 15.9 points and 4.6 assists per game.

“We were roommates last year in the dorms so we developed a lot of chemistry there,” Anderson said. “We know each other’s game, and Ajay is a great player. He knows where I’m going to be.

“He’s a great point guard and has a knack of finding guys. I know he finds Miles a lot, too, on his threes.”

But Pasternack credits Anderson for an assist whenever he’s recruiting new players to the Gauchos.

“When we have staff meetings about recruiting, we often say, ‘We need to find a Cole Anderson,’” he said. “He’s a perfect fit for this university.

“He’s a great student. He’s a high-character young man. He’s an energy-giver. He’s the kid everybody wants to be around.”

And he’s become the shooter that opponents never dare leave alone.

Mark Patton

Mark Patton, Noozhawk Sports Columnist

Noozhawk sports columnist Mark Patton is a longtime local sports writer. Contact him at The opinions expressed are his own.