Belleville Honors One of its Greats (On and Off the Court)
BHS Retires Abdel Anderson's Jersey Tuesday Night
If a single moment of his acceptance speech defines Abdel Anderson or points to the reason he was chosen for Tuesday night’s honor, it came when he turned to his children and passed along a message from their great-grandmother.
(See our video for portions of the ceremony.)
He spoke not of baskets, nor of record books. He spoke about integrity, kindness, and hard work. Those attributes, he said, are what define a person.
Anderson was one of the greatest athletes in Belleville High School history. On Thursday night in a pre-game ceremony, he became only the third athlete in the school’s history to have their BHS uniform number retired. But those who spoke made it clear that he was being honored not just for his prowess on the court, but also because of the person he has become.
“Not only was he an outstanding basketball player, he was a remarkable young man,” said Danny Grasso, Anderson’s former coach at Belleville who now coaches at Immaculate Conception in Montclair.
Anderson, now 53 and recently retired from a lengthy career in the Union County Prosecutors Office, looked into the crowd during his speech and thanked many of the people he credited for helping him develop as a person. The former BHS teammates in attendance hold a special place in his heart. He credited those players with teaching him not only to be a better basketball player, but also with showing him how to work hard and accept responsibility off the court as well.
There were also members of the Roselle Catholic and Rutgers University basketball communities in attendance. Anderson coached for several years at Roselle Catholic, and his name still appears in the Rutgers University record book.
“You helped me develop into a pretty good basketball player and you helped me develop into a halfway decent man,” he told his basketball family.
Later Anderson recounted his grandmother’s lesson to his children, Abdel Jr, 13, and Brianna, 12. Tears filled Brianna’s eyes. A touch of reverence could be seen in Abdel Jr’s.
“That’s important to me,” Anderson said. “A lot of people here have told me what a nice person I am or what a gentleman I am. That’s what I want from my kids.”
Though clearly proud of his basketball accomplishments, the humble Anderson said it is more important to him that he be “recognized as the person I am.”
Of course, if Anderson chose to talk about his basketball accolades, he could go on for quite some time.
He became the first player in Belleville basketball history to score 1,000 points in a career when he hit the mark in 1975. He was a first-team all-state player and a high-school All-American. He’s also a member of the school’s hall of fame. At Rutgers, he was a member of the 1975-76 team that played in the NCAA’s Final Four. He ranks ninth in Rutgers history in field goals made in a career, 12th all-time in scoring, and 16th in field goal percentage. He’s also a member of the Rutgers’ Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Every time we played, he was double or tripled team, but he never lost his composure,” recalled Grasso.
Grasso said more than 100 colleges recruited Anderson. He recounted one memorable meeting with a college coach, in particular. Dick Vitale, now a well-known basketball commentator but then the head coach at the University of Detroit, visited Grasso and Anderson at a local diner. Vitale, a heck of a talker, wanted Anderson badly. He kept the player and coach at the dinner until 2 a.m., said Grasso. Anderson, he said, however, had fallen asleep by midnight.
Asked about his fondest BHS moment, Anderson pointed to a game against a powerful Orange High School team. He remembers scoring 44 points, and helping his team knock off Orange in front of a packed house full of excited fans.
“This is my hometown,” he said. “This night is very special because I have a lot of fond memories here.”
Immaculate 67, Belleville 59
Immaculate Conception of Montclair topped Belleville, 67-59, in an exciting contest following Abdel Anderson’s jersey retirement ceremony on Tuesday night.
The Bucs trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, but went on a 21-2 run that bridged the end of the third and start of the fourth to take a 54-50 lead with about six minutes left to play.
Tommy Rosario helped lead the Bucs’ charge, converting a pair of 3-point plays and totaling eight points during the team’s 21-2 run.
But it was a combination of the Lions’ high-pressure defense and their own turnovers and mistakes that cost the Bucs in the end. Belleville held a four-point lead with about four minutes left, but Immaculate closed the game with a 13-2 spurt.
Rosario finished with 20 points and added eight rebounds for Belleville. Julian Rodriguez had 14 points, while Kamal Miller had 13 and Keith Everett had 10.
Da’vi Austin led Immaculate (5-2) with 29 points. His basket with 1:47 left put the Lions in front to stay.