The Wolfpacker

January 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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38 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER B eeJay Anya is pumping his legs and answering questions. He's got 20 more pounds to lose, in season, and there's no time to stand still for an interview. So he takes out his earbuds, looks to the side every so often, and keeps going nowhere on the stationary bicycle in the Weisiger-Brown weight room. The honest truth, though, is that Anya has come so far in the last two years since his arrival from his home state of Maryland. Working with director of strength and condi- tioning Bob Alejo, Anya has lost more than 60 pounds, and his playing time is way up, nearly double the huffing and puffing 11.8 minutes he was on the court last year. He's put blinders on for his regular trips down Western Boulevard so he's not tempted to go through the McDonald's drive thru for an extra large meal and sundae. He's learning to bypass cold pizza late at night for a nice salad in the early evening, a ma- jor lifestyle change for an admitted veggie- phobe whose own mother can't convince him to eat broccoli, let alone the athletics department's nutritionist. But he's trying, and the results are a huge boon for the Wolfpack's T.J. Warren-less lineup. In the first seven games of the 2014-15 season, Anya more than doubled his scor- ing, rebounding and blocked shots from the off-and-on productivity of his freshman season, when he contributed 2.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in his 33 games off the bench. He made quite the splash against Jack- sonville, when he set a school record with 10 blocked shots, including a dizzying se- quence in which he swatted away four at- tempts on one possession. That's exactly the kind of defense head coach Mark Gottfried was looking for when he signed the extra big man with the 7-foot-9 inch wingspan from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyatts- ville, Md. The floor of PNC Arena no longer seems to be going uphill both ways for Anya, who is now capable of staying in for more than the two- or three-minute stretches he saw last year. Less weight, obviously, begets better endurance for Anya, but it also helps him get off the floor quicker, commit fewer fouls and get more opportunities to swat away shots taken in the lane. "The biggest thing, I think, is that Coach Gottfried has more confidence to leave me on the floor," Anya said. "And I'm able to play harder during those minutes. I'm not breathing hard as soon as I go up the floor, and I think I can be more effective." Blocking shots has been Anya's talent since he first picked up a basketball. No one ever taught him how to do it — he learned by instinct and trial and error. Maybe that's why he would rather swat than score. "It's just something that comes natural to me," he said. "I could block shots before I could make layups. I think it is something I was born to do." Anya's favorite thing to see on the basket- ball court is the fear in a driver's eyes when he finds the big man in his way. "You can just look in their eyes and see them hesitate," he said. "They will stop and pump fake or something like that. But once you have them thinking like that, you have already won. You don't even have to block their shot." Against Jacksonville, the shooters just stopped driving. If Anya can make other op- ponents do the same and take lower percent- age shots from further away from the basket, then the Wolfpack could have one of its better defenses in Gottfried's four seasons. "That changes a lot for us," the coach noted. "It allows us to pressure more on the perimeter. A guard knows that if he does get beat, BeeJay can protect the rim. It takes away an opponent's ability to make easy shots. Sometimes, you don't even have to block the shot. He makes you alter what you do or he gets in the shooter's head. Once you block three or four, guys get a little more timid about going against him. "Sometimes, you just need to be in the way." Gottfried looks forward to the day — maybe even this season — when Anya is even more agile, even quicker off his feet, even more able to jump, land and jump again. "For me, he's just now scratching the sur- face of what he can do on defense," Gott- fried said. "As he continues to lose weight, he'll be even better." Anya certainly has the height and the wingspan to be among the best shot block- ers in NC State history. Since the school started keeping the stat — in the post-Tom Burleson era, mind you — only three play- ers have averaged more than two blocked shots a game for a season: 7-5 Chuck Nevitt in 1982, 6-11 Thurl Bailey in 1983 and 6-9 Cedric Simmons in 2005. There are no official stats for what Bur- leson did, though the record book lists eight blocks in a 1973 game against East Carolina and seven in the 1974 NCAA championship game against Marquette. But the presence of the 7-2 Burleson and his athletic ability to block shots in an era when body contact was not allowed on defense made superstar David Thompson and point guard Monte Towe even more deadly to opponents. In his three seasons, there was no better blocker than an inspired Burleson. Nevitt, a little spindly on the court, did not have the same kind of athletic ability as Burleson, but he did have three more inches in height, which helped him lead the team with 63 blocks in 1982, the first time Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack to the NCAA Tournament. The long-armed Bailey, who owns the ca- reer record with 207 blocks, led the team as a freshman and sophomore and in his senior year, when he had a school-record 95 dur- LESS IS MORE BeeJay Anya's Weight Loss Has Led To Greater Production In His Sophomore Campaign Anya set a school record with 10 blocked shots against Jacksonville Nov. 20, and he was averaging 3.6 rejections per game through Dec. 6. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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