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Cousins Anderson, Leaf have Rockets clicking

Second to none

Rock Falls' Alex Leaf (left) and Jace Anderson are running mates in the Rockets' backcourt. They are also cousins and best friends.
Rock Falls' Alex Leaf (left) and Jace Anderson are running mates in the Rockets' backcourt. They are also cousins and best friends.

They're second cousins, and as far as area backcourts go, they're second to none.

Rock Falls seniors Jace Anderson and Alex Leaf have grown up together, on and off the basketball court.

Anderson and Leaf's mothers are cousins, but were raised in the same household by their maternal grandmother. Alex and Jace are just as close.

"We treat each other like we're brothers," said Anderson, who averages 10.7 points, has 49 3-pointers and is a 45 percent 3-point shooter. "We fight sometimes, but we love each other."

"Our parents are really close," said Leaf, who averages 5.2 points, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals. "I used to stay at his house every weekend, and he'd stay at mine. We were together pretty much all the time."

Anderson and Leaf are two-fifths of the starting lineup for Rock Falls, which is 14-4 under first-year coach Brad Bickett.

There was a stretch when they weren't together quite as much.

"When we got into fifth grade, that's when school ball started, and he went to East Coloma and I went to Montmorency," Anderson said. "We would always talk smack during the game, but after the game we were always buddies."

That was from fifth through eighth grade, though the two were still on the same traveling team.

Who got the better of those matchups?

"I guarded him, and he guarded me," Leaf said. "I had one game where I went big, and he had a game where he was automatic outside."

Leaf is the prototypical point guard, while Anderson puts the shooting in shooting guard.

"We're pretty much the opposite as players," Leaf said. "He's more of an offensive specialist. If he's on, everybody knows to get him the ball. I do my best driving and dishing, and I'm more of a defensive specialist."

Anderson has met very few shots he doesn't like. He's known to launch from some 25-feet out.

"I've practiced shooting the ball a lot," he said. "That's what I'm good at. Guys would guard me closer and move me back farther and farther. A lot of times they won't come out that far, so then I can get a shot off."

Anderson is comfortable shooting the ball from very long distance.

"I could probably shoot from half court," he said. "But, I haven't done that in a game."

Leaf is sometimes amazed by the long-range bombs that Anderson puts up.

"Some of them really shock me," Leaf said. "I'll see him set up for it, and I can tell it's going up. He might be on the volleyball line, and he doesn't even hesitate. Then I'll look at coach to see his reaction. He knows Jace has range, but he's still hesitant on some of those. But, when you net them, you can't really say anything."

Anderson and Leaf dreamed of playing varsity ball at Rock Falls as youngsters.

"Before the games we'd see the lights turn off, and we'd talk about how much fun that was going to be when that was us running out there," Anderson said. "Not too long ago we were in the stands watching Isaiah Johnson and Josh Coward come out and win game after game. Now our turn is finally here. It's hard to imagine. I can't wrap my head around it."

By the numbers

• Jace Anderson, 10.7 points per game, 49 3-pointers, 45 percent 3-point shooter

• Alex Leaf, 5.2 points per game, 3.5 assists per game, 2.2 steals per game

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