09/03/2012 12:28 EDT | Updated 11/03/2012 05:12 EDT

"Perfect wheelchair basketball machine" drives Canada at Paralympic Games

LONDON - He's the player the opposition tries in vain to contain. The ball follows him like a loyal dog. When the ball clangs off the rim or backboard, one hand rises effortlessly above others.

Every sport has a game-changer such as Sidney Crosby, or in his prime, Kobe Bryant. Patrick Anderson is that in wheelchair basketball.

Sport may be given to hyperbolic language but in Anderson's case, the Canadian lives up to his billing as the best player in the world.

"In every sport, there always comes along a physical specimen who is ideally suited for that particular sport and the guy becomes a superstar," Canadian coach Jerry Tonello says. "We have Pat.

"Pat is the perfect wheelchair basketball machine."

The perfect wheelchair basketball machine almost wasn't wearing Canadian colours at the Paralympic Games in London. After winning gold in 2000 and 2004 and silver in 2008, Anderson retired. The retirement turned into a two-year hiatus before he returned to the game.

"When I started playing wheelchair basketball, I was totally inspired by guys telling me about Seoul - guys who had played basketball for Canada in 1988," Anderson said. "I wanted to be that one more time.

"When I started to hear about London and people in the U.K. who really seemed to get the Paralympics and the media coverage here was going to be something special, that started the ball rolling. I wanted to be part of the show and represent Canada well, my friends and family and also the Paralympic movement well."

Canada downed Columbia 68-42 on Monday to cap the preliminary round of the Paralympic tournament at 5-0. The Canadians will play in Wednesday's quarter-finals.

Anderson was the only player to score over 100 points and led the tournament in points (133) and assists (39). He tied for first in fouls drawn (28) and ranked second in rebounds (45).

Listed at six-foot-four when he's wearing prosthetic legs, Anderson is long from his hips to his head.

He doesn't wear prosthetics on the court, so without the lower legs he lost at age nine when he was struck by a drunk driver, Anderson sits higher in his chair than those who still have their legs.

"He's got great levers," Tonello explains. "His weight distribution is suited to our sport. He's carrying no weight low in the chair where it's dead weight and he's worked on his body to be strong from the waste up."

In wheelchair basketball, a player gets two touches of his wheels before dribbling. Anderson has the core strength to thrust his body forward and get maximum distance before he has to put the ball down. And while the ball is in his hand, it seems glued there.

With Germany often double-teaming Anderson on Sunday, the court opened up for teammate Bo Hedges to pour in 24 points. Anderson had his second triple-double of the tournament with 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists in that game.

"You cannot defend against Anderson one-on-one," British player Gaz Choudhry told The Telegraph. "It takes the whole team to defend him."

Canadian co-captain David Eng says Anderson is more than his physical gifts.

"He's really long, really tall, but there's a lot of tall, long players out there like Pat," Eng says. "What really makes Pat Anderson is his work ethic and his will to analyze and understand the game.

"A lot of people think Pat's a natural. What makes him a super player is his work ethic, how he studies the game and his knowledge of the game."

Australia foiled Canada's bid for a golden three-peat in Beijing. Returning to the top of the podium requires all Canadian hands on deck and not just Anderson's. Tonello's challenge has been to work a dominant player seamlessly into a team effort.

"I have to build a supporting staff around him," he explains. "I lose all respect if it's just about Pat. I've been working hard on getting other players who can work with him and we saw Bo Hedges come through from the top of the key."

Anderson was born in Edmonton, but grew up in Fergus, Ont. The 33-year-old is married and working on a music degree at New York City's Hunter College.

He has a dry, understated sense of humour. Anderson takes a few moments to respond to his label as the best player in the world.

"Um, what do I think about that?" he said. "It never gets old."

"Whether I'm the best player in the world or not, I take it as a bit of a point of pride to play like it or try to play like it," Anderson continued. "I'm capable on any given day of living up to that.

"That's the least I owe the sport, to not shy away from that label, embrace it and enjoy it and be grateful that people appreciate my game."