Talking to those who once knew Anders left only a cold trail of rumors. Benny Anders was a truck driver. He was living in Asia. He was living in Louisiana but going by his middle name, Michael. It was even suggested that he had undergone a sex change. There is an @BennyAnders on Twitter, but the profile reads: "17, lifeguard, waiter, studying at south devon, Living the devon dream!"
When I told a friend about my search, he referred me to a friend of his, a private investigator in New York City. The gumshoe had recollections of Anders at Houston, and he offered to help. A day later he called me back, impressed: "Not much on this guy at all. He knows how to hide!" He did find a record indicating that Anders had worked in the late '90s for a security firm, J.R. Nell & Son Security, in Flint, Mich. There was, however, no current record of a B. Anders, a Benny Anders or even an M. Anders living in Flint. Nor was there a record of J.R. Nell. The Michigan Department of Licensing claimed to have no information showing that the firm ever existed.
A poster on Coogfans.com, the Houston athletic message board, had a lead on Anders: "I found this on Google: Prison Ministry. Every Monday and Thursday we have groups that serve at the Clifton Prison teaching Bible Studies, leading Worship Services, and serving Family Outreach. If you are interested in more information or in volunteering, please contact Benny Anders or the church office." A follow-up revealed that this Benny Anders was not African-American.
Even in his absence, the legend of Anders grew. When the 2011 Final Four was held in Houston, it triggered the typical "Where are they now?" chatter about Phi Slamma Jamma. Inevitably Anders's mysterious disappearance came up. A story that Gettys earlier recounted to the journalist Robert Weintraub made the rounds: "An agent who places players overseas told me ... he had set up a tryout camp in Louisiana a few years ago. He started with 150 players, narrowed it to 75, then down to 15, then held a full-court scrimmage. So one dude, he's about 300 pounds, is just killing guys. Just busting them up. The agent knew he was too heavy to interest anyone but had to know more about this guy, and asked him his name.
"'I'm Benny Anders,' the guy said.
"The agent was shocked. 'The Benny Anders? What do you weigh?'
"Shaking his head, the agent asked, 'What are you doing weighing 292 pounds?'
"'I'm down from 350,' Benny said."
It was another classic tale in a compendium so, well, fat that it could be serialized. But it was of little help. No one could recall the site of the tryout camp, the name of the agent or even the league auditioning the players. I sympathized with Charles Jones, the hapless Louisville defender in the '83 Final Four. I thought I had an angle on Anders; he remained one step ahead.