Kyle Anderson's Hardest Year

By: Lorne Chan Spurs.com

A recent Baylor University study found that college-aged men spend an average of eight hours a day on their phones either texting, emailing or on the internet and apps.

That’s a hundred glances a day for Kyle Anderson at the home screen of his phone. And a hundred glances a day at the image he has saved there, a photo of his friend Paul Kim.

It’s been a year since Paul died. In that year, Anderson has had many moments and memories in his rookie season with the Spurs.

But it has also been a year of loss. A year of Anderson wishing he could have been there for Paul. Wishing he spotted a sign.

He’s looked at the images of Paul thousands of times in the year since he died, but he still keeps the constant reminders around. When he goes to his kitchen, another photo of Paul is there.

For Anderson, the day he doesn’t think of Paul will be his worst day.

“He was a great friend,” Anderson said. “He had everything going for him.”

They grew up four blocks away in Fairview, New Jersey. Friends since elementary school, they talked about how Anderson would be in the NBA some day, and Paul would be right there watching.

Paul was a junior at Rutgers University. He was last seen riding his bike on the George Washington Bridge on the morning of Oct. 21, 2014. He died of an apparent suicide. He was 20 years old.

Anderson found out about Kim’s death the next day. The Spurs played the Hawks that night in a preseason game. Anderson scored 10 points in 17 minutes, not that he remembers any of it.

“For the first time, I couldn’t put basketball together,” he said. “I can usually escape with basketball or shut everything else out. Not that night. Everything was too tough.”

Paul was always the one Anderson turned to whenever he needed to talk.

When Hurricane Sandy battered New Jersey, Anderson was on the other side of the country at UCLA. The Anderson house had no electricity or heat, so Paul went over a few times a day to take care of Kyle’s dog.

When Anderson was emerging as a star with the Bruins, he was having trouble keeping up with a slew of social media mentions. Paul stepped in and ran his Facebook fan page for him.

As Anderson runs through a greatest hits list of times Paul came through for him, his voice trails off.

Paul was always there for him when something was wrong. If only Kyle could have known Paul needed his help.

“It eats at Kyle and his friends because they didn't pick up the signs,” Anderson’s brother, Jamar Wilkins, told a local newspaper in New Jersey. “They carry the burden."

Anderson has never dealt with the loss of a close friend before.

One thing rookies often don’t expect out of life in the NBA is the amount of free time they have. Once practice ends, there aren’t classes to attend or studying to do anymore. There aren’t that many people around in the middle of the afternoon, leaving players on their own a lot more than they expect, in apartments or hotel rooms.

In that time, Anderson said he often thought about Paul. They shared every experience together through childhood. The reminders were everywhere.

A song they listened to all the time growing up. Video games they used to play.

When the Spurs went on the road to Philadelphia, it would have been an hour-long train ride from Rutgers for Paul to visit. Anderson could have shown his friend what life was like in the NBA.

Anderson replayed September of 2014 in his head, just before training camp began for the Spurs in Berlin and Anderson was back home in New Jersey. He hung out with Paul every day.

Anderson wishes he would have noticed Paul was acting depressed, but Paul wasn’t.

They just joked around and spent time together like they always do. Like Anderson figured they always would.

“Suicide among people our age a subject that goes under the radar because I don’t think people want to talk about it,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of kids out there having the same thoughts he did, and they’re not talking to other people about it.”

It’s a pain that will never leave Anderson, and he’s decided to do something about it going forward.

In June, Anderson flew back home to Fairview for the first annual Celebrate Life basketball tournament. They celebrated Paul through his favorite sport.

Anderson ran a youth basketball camp and saw old friends, teachers and Paul’s family.

Anderson plans to help make it an annual event.

Part of the day included a presentation by Ed Modica, who is pushing to pass the "Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act.” Modica was a high school teacher of Holleran, a track star at the University of Pennsylvania who committed suicide in 2014.

The legislation is for mental health professionals to be available around the clock on college campuses to assist students in crisis, and for colleges to list the numbers of suicides/attempted suicides on their websites annually.

“We want to let kids know that if this monster that has taken over, there’s someone to talk to,” Anderson said. “Committing suicide is not an answer. If there’s a hotline, even if it’s me that they can call, we don’t want it to happen again.”

lchan@attcenter.com

Twitter:@lornechan

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