While the offseason for college basketball programs is very much about helping individual players improve their skill sets with an eye towards the upcoming season, it’s also about improving teamwork and leadership traits. In recent years more teams have gone to some form of military-influenced training to help in those areas, and there have been positive results. VCU and Utah are among those who have used such methods to help them on the court, and NC State has taken a similar path.
Mark Gottfried’s team, coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance, participated in The Program, a two-day session led by instructors and United States Marine Corps veterans Jake MacDonald and Jamie Slife with an eye towards improving in areas such as teamwork, leadership and communication. Those aspects will be important for a team that lost three of its top four scorers from a season ago in Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Kyle Washington.
Above is a short video of the team’s experience in The Program, with multiple players having to step forward in leadership roles. Guards Cat Barber and Terry Henderson and big men Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya were among those entrusted with the task of leading certain drills, and at the end of the camp Caleb Martin received the Spartan Warrior t-shirt that all participants strive to earn.
The Wolfpack have the talent to make yet another NCAA tournament appearance under Gottfried, but in an ACC that will be tougher than it was a season ago the intangibles improved upon in The Program could prove to be highly valuable during the season.
Video credit: NC State Athletics
N.C. State junior big man Beejay Anya has struggled to maintain a consistent playing weight during his basketball career, but it appears that he’s making progress as we get closer to the 2015-16 season.
In a tweet this week from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Anya’s weight was reported at 284 pounds, down from 320 that Anya was at during the offseason. That’s great news for Anya and the Wolfpack, but we’ve also heard this same song-and-dance about his weight loss before.
Before the start of his sophomore season last fall, Anya’s weight loss was once again a focus, as we found out that he had gone down from 349 pounds at one point in his N.C. State career to 290 pounds. Fox Sports’ Lauren Brownlow chronicled in an October 2014 story how this had become somewhat of a trend with Anya over the last few years of his career:
That’s been Anya’s struggle. His weight yo-yoed up and down for much of his final two years of high school, and he was listed at 275 as a senior. Then he reported to Raleigh in the summer of 2013 at 337 pounds, somehow. They started him with a nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach Bob Alejo right away. Somehow, he gained weight before the start of the season, exasperating his head coach Mark Gottfried.
He was able to drop about 20 pounds before the start of last season, but the weight gain-loss-gain-loss-gain roller-coaster continued, seemingly never-ending. He averaged 11.8 minutes a game and scored 2.1 points, adding 1.4 blocks and 2.1 rebounds, but he ended the season back to where he had been before it started, weight-wise.
Things didn’t look good for Anya even as soon as a few months ago. Powell Latimer of Greensboro.com mentioned in a report from July that Anya was over 300 pounds again with head coach Mark Gottfried saying, “that’s kind of a tired subject to me.”
Anya issues maintaining his ideal playing weight aside, he does deserve credit for figuring things out before the season to get in better shape. It’s not ideal that Anya continues to put on weight in the summer, as he might get hurt and it also might burn him out a little bit earlier in the season.
Either way, N.C. State needs Anya to produce down low this season as their interior depth took a hit with the loss of transfer Kyle Washington. If Anya is reliable, the Wolfpack could be in solid position for another postseason run.
No. 8 NC State and No. 9 LSU have both managed to show flashes of their potential this season, but they’ve also shown a lack of consistency that tends to be a main characteristic of teams that land in the 8/9 matchup. With that being the case, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the two teams played a game that was both exciting and befuddling.
But all that matters is the end result, and thanks to a BeeJay Anya jump hook with one tenth of a second remaining the Wolfpack won by the final score of 66-65.
Next up for the Wolfpack is East Region No. 1 Villanova, which coasted to a win over No. 16 Lafayette in the first game of the evening session in Pittsburgh.
Anya’s game-winner capped a stunning collapse for LSU, which led by 14 points (62-48) with 9:13 remaining. From that point forward LSU scored just three points, all coming from the foul line, as they missed their final 12 shots from the field. Add in the fact that Johnny Jones’ Tigers also missed their final six free throws of the game, and it isn’t took difficult to see why NC State had the opportunity to come back.
But even with that opportunity a team has to take advantage, and thanks in part to Kyle Washington NC State was able to do so. Washington scored seven of his nine points in the early stages of the Wolfpack’s 18-3 game-ending run, and from there his teammates stepped forward on both ends of the floor.
Trevor Lacey added five points and Abdul-Malik Abu two during the run, with Anya responsible for the final four points of the game. And after being worn out by the tandem of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey for most of the first 30 minutes of the game, the NC State front court stepped forward when Mark Gottfried needed them most. Add in Cat Barber’s team-high 17 points, and the Wolfpack were able to find a way to win.
NC State has the talent to give Villanova trouble on Saturday, but the key for them will be consistency. They can ill-afford to play as they did for the majority of Thursday’s win against the Wildcats, as that would lead to defeat. Play as they did in the final 9:15 Thursday night, and the Wolfpack have a shot at pulling off the upset.