Cade Anderson has always stood out in a basketball gym.

Standing nearly 6-foot-10, it’s inevitable that one’s gaze eventually turns to Anderson as he towers over almost every Viterbo University men’s basketball teammate and opponent. But before this season, those who saw Anderson might use words like “skinny” or “lanky” to describe the V-Hawks’ big man.

However, those words have been replaced this year with “solid” or “ripped” — a result of the hours and hours of work that Anderson put into reshaping his body between the end of last season and beginning of this one.

“That first day (of practice), you could tell he had just put on some massive muscle just over the past few months,” Viterbo senior Ethan Haberman said of his junior teammate. “He’s been much more difficult to get out (of the post), and he’s coming up with a lot more offensive rebounds.”

Moving into the regular starting lineup for the first time in his collegiate career, the Sparta High School graduate is now leading the North Star Athletic Association in rebounding at 9.1 rebounds per game. Add to that his 11.6 points per game, and Anderson has rounded himself into a valuable asset for the V-Hawks (13-9, 5-5 NSAA).

NATE BEIER, For the Tribune
Viterbo's Cade Anderson, a 6-foot-10 junior, grabs an offensive rebound against Waldorf College in a game earlier this season at Beggs Gymnasium.

Anderson has seven double-doubles this season and nine games with 10 rebounds or more. His height gives him an advantage in the post, and he knows that, but if it was just about being tall, he would’ve had this type of production from the moment he stepped into R.W. Beggs Gymnasium as a freshman. It took this offseason — one focused on strength, conditioning and footwork, Anderson said — for things to all click.

The added physical strength has also allowed Anderson to be more assertive in the post, something he says he’s always tried to do, but is doing to greater effect this season.

“With my height, obviously I can be a great presence in the post. That’s something I can do every night,” Anderson said. “If I’m not scoring well, I can always rebound, offensively and defensively. That’s something I credit to this summer, just working hard, getting stronger.”

Anderson says he has gained about 35 pounds since arriving at Viterbo. The differences are evident in his arms, shoulders and legs — all featuring more defined muscle mass.

In Viterbo’s offense, Anderson is often the lone player stationed below the free-throw line, with all five players executing a motion system that can attack the weaknesses of a defense. Haberman, a Central grad, said the team’s penchant for shooting 3s (40.3 percent as a team) gives Anderson space to work down low, especially if opponents don’t double-team him on the catch.

“You can tell just in his one-on-one approach, even in practice, he’s more comfortable getting to the rim and taking his shot,” Haberman said. “Before, he might get knocked off his spot and try to pass it. Now he’s a lot more confident and he can finish a lot easier.”

V-Hawks coach Wayne Wagner, a former Viterbo player himself, said Anderson’s continued his work in the weight room throughout the season. And as the team comes down the stretch with six games left, he expects Anderson to keep getting better.

“Cade is a classic example of when you put your time in in the offseason, good things come your way,” Wagner said. “You wish you’d seen more guys grab on to that mindset, but he certainly did.”

MORE FROM OTHERS: Viterbo is right in the thick of things in the NSAA, sitting 2½ games behind conference-leader Dickinson State (11-7, 7-2) with six games remaining.

However, there are three teams two games behind and one just a half-game back. Viterbo has four of its final games at home, including a game against Dickinson State on Feb. 10 that should be a chance to jump up the standings.

For these things to happen, though, the V-Hawks will need a bit more consistency from their bench players. Four starters are averaging 10 or more points per game, but no reserve is averaging more than 5.7.

Wagner said to make a push for the conference title or at the very least lock up a NSAA tournament game at home, the team has to get more production from its bench.

ONE LAST TRIP: Viterbo’s move to the NSAA created long weekends — usually Friday and Saturday — of travel with back-to-back games slated for those nights.

The V-Hawks have just one more of these trips on the schedule, Feb. 2-3 at Valley City State and Dakota State, which will equal about 16 hours on the bus that weekend.

Viterbo is 3-1 on the second day of back-to-backs this season.