- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 10, 2011

On the second night of training camp, the first day of two-a-days, it was rookie Chris Singleton who walked away with the hard hat, which Wizards head coach Flip Saunders awards to the player who puts in the most effort. John Wall earned it on Day 1.

“It was a good day overall,” Singleton said. “The team put in a lot of effort. It’s an honor to get the hard hat.” “I’m learning a lot. You have to pick up things fast with a shortened season. I’m just trying to earn my playing time.”

Singleton admits that early in his basketball career, the knock on him was that he didn’t work hard enough. He credits his coaches at Florida State with helping him turn his work ethic around.

“They talked to me every day and told me what I needed to do to improve. I just try and show every time I step out there on the court that this means something to me. I just love to play the game.”

Another aspect of Singleton’s game is his ability to guard any position on the floor.

“I said it, I wasn’t joking,” Singleton said. “I’m willing to do anything to get on the court. If I have to play the five, I’ll play the five. I don’t want to go up against Dwight Howard, but if I get hit, I get hit.”

Saunders called Singleton a player who takes on any type of challenge.

“He’s everything we thought he’d be,” Saunders said. “He plays with a great amount of intensity. He’s all over the court. He plays anywhere and guards anybody.”

Although Saunders declined to state a specific theme for this year’s training camp, like he has in the past, one has clearly emerged — defense and hard work, with a heavy dose of maturity sprinkled in.

The addition of Singleton, Roger Mason Jr., and now Ronny Turiaf seems to be tipping the scales of the Wizards’ roster in just that direction. Saunders called Turiaf’s signing a great acquisition for the team.

“With him [Turiaf], Rashard [Lewis], Roger [Mason], we’ve got three very solid veteran-type guys. It’s nice to have some guys that have been through it,” Saunders said.

“[With Turiaf], we’re bringing in a veteran big that’s very defensive-minded, very much of a team player, plays aggressive, plays with a great amount of enthusiasm. I think fans are going to love him. He can be a mentor for some of our younger players. He has playoff experience; experience as far as what it takes to play at a high level.”

Turiaf is expected to join the Wizards on Sunday.

Mason is already functioning as a coach on the floor, and his communication skills are helping his young teammates navigate an intense, shortened training camp.

“That’s my role,” Mason said. “The guys put me in a leadership position as an executive board member and coming here, after playing on good teams, I felt like I could bring leadership here.

“With the young guys, you’ve got to communicate. The good teams, that’s what they do and we have to do that to be a good team.”

Andray Blatche appears to be listening.

“It’s time to win. It’s time to be serious,” said Blatche, who knows his reputation, and that of a few of his teammates. “We’ve been a goofy team in the past, everybody knows that. Playing around got us sent home early. The last couple of years, we’ve been too goofy and too soft.”

Blatche was given a book on leadership during the offseason by Saunders. Neither could recall the title offhand, but Blatche said he read about half of it and got the message.

“We don’t have time to be joking around,” Blatche said. “We tried that the last couple of years, and look where it got us.”

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