As an Australian, David Andersen's exploits in Europe are second to none. After a single Australian National Basketball League (NBL) season with the Wollongong Hawks, the 18 year old packed his bags to embark on his European adventure. As a young man just out of school it was a brave move, but after having represented Australia at junior level on numerous trips to Europe, he was able to make a relatively smooth transition. Italy was his first stop and that was where he would spend the next 5 years in the Serie A, commencing a career that would experience success at almost every turn.
Utilising his Danish passport to play as a 'local', Andersen first landed with then Italian club Kinder Bologna (now Virtus Bologna) and was looking forward to the challenge ahead. As he grew in confidence and maturity, his importance to the success of the team increased. He would go on to play an integral role in helping Bologna win two Italian National Cups, the Italian National Championship and in being crowned 2000/01 Euroleague Champion. In 2002 Andersen's rise was recognised through being selected at pick 35 by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA draft, a team who would hold onto his rights for the next 7 years. Andersen was honoured with his selection but the Hawks did not immediately call upon his services.
When Kinder Bologna went bankrupt, he was forced to make the move to Mens Sana Siena (now Montepaschi Siena). Showing that his success was no fluke with Bologna, he took his game to anothe level. He won yet another Italian National Championship and this time was named finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) and helped take his team to the Euroleague Final Four. The young Australian had arrived in Europe, and it was there that David Andersen the Australian basketball star was made.
To Russia with Love
After representing Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics Games, Andersen was ready to spread his large wingspan further in Europe. With plenty of teams chasing his services, he made the move in signing with Russian superclub CSKA Moscow. Andersen was now a proven winner, and once again success followed. Andersen helped lead his new team to the Russian National Championship, National Cup and made a run all the way to the Euroleague final four in his first year. After a standout season, he was duly named to the 2004/05 All-Euroleague First Team after averaging 12.4 points and 7 rebounds per game. He was now regarded as being one of the best centers, if not the best in Europe at that time which is a truly amazing achievement.
Andersen's outstanding form was cut short by injury in the season that followed. This was arguably the only setback Andersen experienced in his long and illustrious European career, and yet his team went on to win the Euroleague title without him! Andersen had well and truly matured into a consumate hard working professional basketball player, demonstrated through bouncing back over the next two seasons to help his team secure a further two National Championships, a National Cup and his third Euroleague title in 2008. He was consistent, reliable and more importantly, a force to be reckoned with.
From Barcelona to the NBA
After tasting success at the highest levels in Italy and Russia, Spain was next stop on Andersen's conquest of Europe. Seemingly with an ability to choose to lay for the team of his choice such was his stature, he agreed to terms with another European powerhouse club in FC Barcelona. He didn't join his new team until after playing for Australia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but once he did, Andersen demonstrated yet again why the best teams in Europe coveted his services. His ability to stretch opposition defences with his scoring range that extended beyond the arc helped take FC Barcelona to the Euroleague Final Four. This was quickly followed by his contribution in helping the team lift the Spanish ACB crown. He had now conquered Italy, Russia and Spain --which were arguably three of the best national leagues outside of the NBA-- whilst securing three Euroleague crowns along the way. One may say he had achieved just about everything in Europe could offer. It was time to take his game to the next level.
The NBA could no longer ignore the talents of Andersen. He might well have previously priced himself out of NBA contention with his status in European basketball, however the time was right to take his game to the NBA. The Hawks traded Andersen's NBA rights to Houston, where he duly became a Rocket and finally an NBA player. He had now managed to achieve a childhood ambition to play in the NBA and the recognition that goes with it.
After the 2009/10 NBA season where Andersen played a limited role in coming off the bench, he proceeded to find himself moved from team to team, including Toronto and then New Orleans. Whilst he had realised a lifelong dream of playing in the NBA, the team and indvidual perennial success that he had experienced in Europe had all but dried up and he was reportedly being paid less than he could command back in Europe.
Back to the future
Andersen made the decision to head back to Europe and reunite with his old club in Italy, Montepaschi Siena. The NBA role player status was left behind and he immediately found his groove back in Europe. Riding his NBA experience, Andersen was once again back to his productive best, impressing all as he led his team to the Italian National Championship. Andersen then played at his third Olympic games in London and was integral in helping Australia to a quarter final showdown with the gold medallist United States. Many would argue it was his best tournament for the Boomers, and he again was able to translate that into securing a new deal in a new country.
Seemingly all too familiar in Italy, he made another move and this time to Turkey, signing with superclub Fenerbahce Ulker. Andersen once again shone as he put on display his full array of offensive skills to help his new club attain on court success. This time Andersen added the Turkish Cup and Turkish Cup MVP awards to his bulging trophy cabinet and lengthy list of accolades. Seemingly everywhere he landed in Europe, he delivered almost instantaneous on court success. These were signs of a true competitor and a bonafide winner.
Where to now?
Following all the succes in Europe, at 33 years of age Andersen is nearing the end of what will fondly be remembered as an outstanding career. He has represented Australia in a World Championships, three Olympic Games, played a leading role in securing three Euroleague titles and of course an all too brief stint in the NBA. But after yet another stellar season with Fenerbahce Ulker in Turkey, for some reason Andersen currently finds himself as a free agent.
Photo credit Scott Belzner - Sb4photos.com
Andersen has demonstrated he is a winner, with success having followed him throughout his career and especially in Europe. Questions however remain as to why he is still without a team. With his 6'11" frame and his ability to score in the post with range extended to beyond the arc, it is hard to comprehend why Andersen is still uncommitted to a team right now.
Is he holding out for a return to the NBA, or is he simply pricing himself out of what remains an increasingly tough market? With the NBL season fast approaching, he is unlikeley to head back to Australia for a farewell tour this season at least. Whoever gains his services is guaranteed to secure an experienced NBA caliber player who manages to find a way to bring success to his team. It would be a great shame if Andersen could not find a team befitting his talents and the leadership that he can offer. Personally, I suspect Andersen is holding out for an NBA roster spot for one last crack at the big time before what I hope will be a farewell season in the NBL.
Is David Andersen's career really at the crossroads? Please share your opinion as to what is next for our beloved Australian star.