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December 13, 2004

‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ Films Tribute to CSUF Student Rodney Anderson

The Titan Gym was filled with more than 1,500 who gathered Dec. 8 to salute Rodney Anderson, a Cal State Fullerton student and former Titan basketball player.

The university honored the 23-year-old by retiring his jersey during a special ceremony, and a crew from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was there to videotape the festivities.

Anderson and his family were selected for the popular program, which attracts 20 million viewers each week. The show features a family whose lives are changed when their home is selected for an extreme makeover.

The episode featuring the Andersons and the CSUF tribute to Rodney — with cheering students, friends, faculty and staff members — is slated to air on ABC in early 2005.

Inside Titan Gym, while CSUF President Milton A. Gordon told the audience about the student’s background, photographs of Anderson as a boy and as a freshman Titan basketball player during the 1999-2000 season could be seen on a large screen behind the podium.

“By anybody’s definition, Rodney Anderson is a very special student athlete and person . . . and most deserving of this honor,” said Gordon.

At various times during the program, the audience chanted “ROD-NEY” and cheered when junior forward Jamaal Brown stepped forward and presented his No. 4 jersey to give to Anderson upon his return to Southern California the following weekend.

The climax of the evening came when a permanent replica of Anderson’s No. 4 jersey was unveiled high near the rafters, adjacent to those of former Titan greats Leon Wood, Bruce Bowen, Cedric Ceballos and Greg Bunch, as well as women’s stars Nancy Dunkle and Eugenia Miller-Rycraw.

Four and a half years ago during Anderson’s freshman year, he was visiting his family in South Central Los Angeles on a day off from practice.

While standing on the sidewalk a short distance from his home, gang members approached him, mistaking him for a rival gang member. He was shot three times — an act that paralyzed him from the waist down.

Since that day, his friends and supporters at Cal State Fullerton have encouraged Anderson to continue his education.

“What happened to Rodney was tragic,” said Robert Palmer, vice president for student affairs. “He was a promising basketball player on scholarship here. We all know what a special person Rodney is, and we wanted to continue our support.”

His scholarship was continued and in June, Anderson is scheduled to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in human services.

“There is no doubt that Rodney would have continued to make a great contribution to the basketball team at Cal State Fullerton,” said Brian Quinn, director of intercollegiate athletics. “Even after he was injured, he still came to the games to support the team. He epitomizes good sportsmanship. Many people in his situation would be bitter, but that’s just not how it is with Rodney. It is an honor for us to be able to recognize him.”

“It says a lot about Rodney that he wanted to continue with his education even after such a devastating injury,” said Paul Miller, director of disabled student services. “We all want to do what we can to support him. He is an inspiration to many of the students here, both disabled and non-disabled. We are all very proud of his accomplishments.”

The “Extreme Makeover” staff selected the Anderson home for an extreme makeover — in fact, the house was razed earlier this month, and two news homes were built in its place — one for the Anderson family and another for Rodney.

The young man had lived in the three-bedroom, one-bathroom home with his parents, his sister and her three children since the shooting. He had been restricted to two rooms of the house, including the dining room, which was converted into his bedroom. Because the house was built in 1911, the doorways to many rooms were too narrow to accommodate Anderson’s wheelchair.

At one point, a contractor was hired to work on the home, but after knocking down some walls he disappeared, leaving gaping holes in the house. Because of the house’s age, the ceiling was in danger of collapsing and the floorboards were buckling under the weight of Anderson’s wheelchair.

The family was facing financial difficulties, as well. Anderson’s mother had to quit her job to care for her son following the shooting. A year to the day after the incident, his father was in a car accident, severely injuring his foot.

With the help of the design team from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” Rodney’s new home is one that complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act, thanks to the efforts of contractors, designers and hundreds of workers. While the home was being built, the Anderson family enjoyed a weeklong vacation in the Bahamas, courtesy of the network.

Tentative air dates for the program are Feb. 13 or Jan. 30 on ABC.