McLAMB: Anya Adds To Reynolds Legacy

Men's basketball returned to Reynolds Coliseum over the weekend. It was a great day in NC State's athletic history.

The game was close the entire way and an upset was narrowly averted. The time to fret about that will be later.

NC State head coach Mark Gottfried along with his staff and his players are almost certainly working towards improving the Wolfpack over the month of December in preparation for a brutal ACC slate that begins on New Year's Eve. The rest of the athletic department should be thrilled for what was a glorious day.

Despite some tense moments and heated exchanges on he court and the need for overtime to resolve the differences, the return of men's basketball to Reynolds Coliseum ultimately produced the desired result. NC State's 67-55 overtime victory against Tennessee State was filled with nostalgia along with the unexpected.

The Old Barn is six moths old in its current state following renovation but Saturday marked the first time the men's basketball team played on Kay Yow Court since its reopening. While Reynolds Coliseum has a rich history along with an expectant bright future that is and will be filled with great moments from several sports -- and a expansive lobby that celebrates all of NC State's athletic achievements -- men's basketball is where the fabled arena made its bones.

The event was wonderfully done. The presence of Norm Sloan's wife Joan, and the sound of a recording of her singing the national anthem set the table. Thurl Bailey, who will get to watch his daughter play volleyball in Reynolds over the next few seasons, made an appearance that rekindled memories of an improbable run to a national title in 1983. Gottfried even sported a plaid jacket, albeit not nearly as garish as those Sloan wore in his day. No stone was left unturned in honoring the past.

The 1983 national championship is rightfully a focal point in NC State's history and in sports in general due to the improbability of its occurrence.

With that in mind, there was symmetry between the heritage of NC State and the individual play of BeeJay Anya in the Wolfpack's win Saturday.

The senior mirrors the athletic program in some ways. Both have had wonderful moments but also have left followers exasperated other times. There is a balance between appreciating the happiness and lamenting the untapped potential.

Anya's conditioning is not at the level expected of a major college athlete yet he has managed to win an ACC Sixth Man of the Year Award and is NC State's all-time leader in blocked shots. His famous left-handed jump hook with a tenth of a second remaining to beat LSU, and cap a rally as unlikely as any win during the run in 1983, would probably be the greatest shot in school history if not for a dunk on the final play to win the NCAA championship.

With Bailey, the man he passed to claim the school record in blocked shots, looking on, Anya rejected seven shots to go with his first career double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds. He entered the contest with 24 points and 20 rebounds through the first eight games of the season.

It took exactly the type of unexpected magic and fortitude that was being honored to win the game and Anya provided it.

Like Reynolds Coliseum, this season's team has much to look ahead to. And like the effort it took to renovate the fabled Old Barn there is much work for the Wolfpack to do.

But on Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum, after some typically nervy and unexpected moments, NC State had a special day in the history of the athletic department and the university itself.

Those who witnessed it are grateful. Those who contributed to it should feel honored.


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