NC State

New year, new shape for NC State’s BeeJay Anya

BeeJay Anya is lighter and leaner, and he plans on staying that way for N.C. State’s basketball season.

The weight of the 6-9 junior forward has become an annual staple of N.C. State’s media day, and Anya looked slim and trim Thursday. Anya said he’s down to 281 pounds.

If the rain holds off and allows the “Tailgate Tip-Off” to happen outside PNC Arena and Carter-Finley Stadium at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Wolfpack fans will get to see Anya and the rest of the team during a short scrimmage.

“I’m more athletic than I was last year; it’s a scary sight,” Anya said. “I’m already a pretty good shot-blocker; it’s going to help my game on defense.”

Anya led the ACC in blocked shots last season with 91 and scored the biggest basket of the year for the Wolfpack – a left-handed hook shot at the buzzer to beat LSU in the Round of 64 in the NCAA tournament.

But Anya’s weight fluctuated between 290 and 315 pounds last season. As a freshman, Anya weighed almost 350 pounds, which now is a source of good-natured entertainment to his teammates.

“We always tell him, ‘Just remember you were 50 pounds away from weighing 400 pounds,’ ” junior forward Lennard Freeman said. “He looks real good right now, so those jokes are over with.”

The pattern has been for Anya to lose weight in the offseason but put it back on during the season. Anya said that won’t happen this year.

“I’m more mature now,” Anya said. “I know what it takes in order for me to be successful. I’ve seen the benefits from being 290. I can only imagine what it could be like if I get in better shape.”

Anya said his goal is to get down to 275 pounds. N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried on Thursday praised Anya’s weight loss. Gottfried said Anya’s agility, quickness and stamina all improve when he’s lighter.

“I’m a strong believer that he’s a completely different player when he’s not lugging around a 9-year-old on his back, which he has done for two years,” Gottfried said.

In July, Gottfried was critical of Anya’s weight. He was encouraged by Anya’s recent progress but said that Anya was not “where he needed to be just yet.”

In addition to getting in better shape, Anya’s goal is to improve his offensive game. He averaged 4.5 points last season, but some of N.C. State’s biggest wins – over Duke, at Louisville, at UNC – coincided with Anya’s best scoring games.

“I refuse to be just a defensive player this year,” Anya said. “I’m going to score the ball a lot more than I did last year.”

If he does that, Anya will be known for more than just his fluctuating weight.

Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

Tailgate Tip-Off

What: N.C. State basketball scrimmage, showcase

When: 10:45 a.m., Saturday

Where: A temporary outdoor court between PNC Arena and Carter-Finley Stadium.

Note: If the weather holds off, the event will happen before the N.C. State-Louisville football game. Bleachers will be set up to accommodate about 1,000 fans. Check Twitter (@jwgiglio) Saturday morning for weather and schedule updates.