Derek Anderson, former NBA player and member of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball championship-winning team of 1996, spoke to local youth about gratitude, optimism, and a hard work ethic Monday night at the Cliff Hagan Boys & Girls Club’s 40th Annual Steak & Burger Dinner.
Anderson greeted and took pictures with young members of the club ahead of the main events of the evening. His main message to the children was that of maintaining a positive attitude and being gracious no matter what your circumstances are.
“You just always have to give yourself an opportunity to be happy and successful,” he said. “A lot of these kids come from the same walks of life that I’d come from, but the one thing I did was have a good attitude. I didn’t know if I was gonna be good at basketball. I just thought I was gonna be a good person and see who’d give me an opportunity, so these kids need to know that their attitude and work ethic is where they’ll be successful.”
Anderson struggled through the early years of his life and found himself homeless at a young age. He made his way through life by utilizing the same skills he wants to pass on to the youth.
“It was common courtesy and people skills, you know,” he said. “Certain things like that I did as well as just being polite and respectful, and people helped me. When you come from where I came from, or even if you don’t have a lot, if you’re being a good person then people will help you get more in life. I think that’s the key.”
Anderson feels that if you do your part, work hard, and go through life with a hard work ethic and respect for others, then it’s easier for others to notice and help uplift you.
Anderson helped the Wildcats win a college basketball national championship in 1996 under coach Rick Pitino. Nine players, including Anderson, went on to play in the NBA Players. In 2006, Anderson was on the Miami Heat team that defeated the Dallas Mavericks to win an NBA Championship. His NBA career spanned 11 years but was plagued by injuries.
In his professional career off the court, Anderson started a foundation, wrote a book, and is a motivational speaker. He enjoys giving back to the community and working with youth. Funds raised from the annual dinner will be used to provide Academic Success and Healthy Lifestyle programs and activities for the Club’s Owensboro location.