His only starting nod in ACC play came in the Wolfpack’s league opener in December against Wake Forest. The reserve forward still managed to have a major impact for his team and voters rewarded him for it.
The 6’9” sophomore earned ACC All-Defensive Team and Sixth Man of the Year awards after leading the conference with an average of 2.71 blocks per game this season despite coming off the bench. Anya, who set a NC State single-game record with 10 blocked shots versus Jacksonville on November 20th, finished the regular season with 84 rejections--second only to Thurl Bailey’s 95 during the Wolfpack’s National Championship season of 1982-83.
Mark Gottfried is happy with Anya’s growth on the court and the improvement of his body off of it. However, the NC State head coach is not nearly satisfied.
After the Wolfpack closed the regular season out with a win at home against Syracuse, and prior to Anya winning his awards, Gottfried took a serious tone when discussing the sophomore.
“I’m on him hard now, and I’m not excited at all about where his weight is right now,” Gottfried said. “I think if he ever gets serious, truly serious about becoming a great player and knocking another 20 or 30 pounds off his body, he’s going to become one of the best players in the country. He hasn’t gotten there yet. We’ve got to get him there, and that’s the next step for him. He can become really something special.”
The following day, NC State held its team banquet and Gottfried’s message was repeat to Anya personally.
"He told me [Sunday] at our banquet to not be satisfied with this. There's so much more. [Gottfried] wants me to get better and expand on it. I am trying to continue this season, finish it out, and then continue this summer to get better and better. I'm trying to come back next year even stronger than I was this year."
NC State, 19-12 this season and a 7-seed in the ACC Tournament, won five of its final six games in the postseason. Defense has been a huge reason the Wolfpack removed itself from the NCAA Tournament bubble over the last four weeks.
State has held six of its last seven opponents to 65 points or fewer.
With his team surging of late and a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance highly likely, Anya not only excited to begin postseason play against Pittsburgh on Wednesday but also feels NC State’s can play even better on college basketball great showcase.
"I think there is room for improvement,” Anya said. “We are a close-knit team. March Madness is probably one of the most viewed sports experiences in the country. It should be fun for us."
“We are not done yet. We are trying to get a ring come Saturday, so that is the main goal. That is the main award that I really want.”