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Wizards’ second-year players look to take the next step

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chris Singleton was his own worst critic after the Washington Wizards finished 20-46 last season. The lockout-shortened campaign deprived rookies Singleton, Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack of a normal training camp and the opportunity to play a regular 82-game schedule.

All three still have a steep learning curve ahead, but coach Randy Wittman doesn't sound worried.

"Chris has had a good three days here," Wittman said during training camp at George Mason University. "We've worked with him all summer on being able to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. At his size, 6-foot-9, he's got to be able to do that more than he did last year and don't be settling on just becoming a 3-point shooter. I've seen progress."

Singleton, who the Wizards took with the 18th pick last year, started 51 games with mixed results.

"I got thrown into the fire [last year], so going into this season, I know what to expect," Singleton said. "I'm a veteran now. I played [more than] 50 games. Not a lot of guys get that opportunity in this league. My first year I got that. This year, I'm going to take advantage of that as much as possible."

A couple of NBA stars had their way with Singleton last year, especially New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who Singleton said got a few "blow-bys" on him. He decided to go back to basics and returned to Florida State this summer to work on his defense.

When the season starts, he plans to take his offense up a notch as well.

"Last year, I found myself just standing around, watching Jordan [Crawford] and Nick [Young] and everybody else go to work," Singleton said. "This year, I'm going to start cutting more and being more active."

Vesely, who often looked lost last year, also needs to improve on offense. The sixth overall pick in last year's draft said he's coming into camp prepared.

"I feel like I'm ready for the season because I worked on my outside shot," Vesely said.

The preseason, which gets underway on Sunday in Charlotte, will show just how much Vesely has, or has not, honed his game.

"Jan's biggest thing is his ability to have confidence and take open shots," Wittman said. "It's kind of hard right now because we're not doing a lot offensively yet, but obviously he has the ability to run the floor and guard multiple positions."

The team's second-round pick last season, Mack has had a summer of adjustments. He was John Wall's backup last season but had a mediocre showing at point guard during summer-league games. Now Mack has to compete with Jannero Pargo and A.J. Price for the starting spot with Wall sidelined for eight weeks.

"I thought Shelvin had as good a two days of practice as I've seen," Wittman said. "Being a rookie last year, a lot of things were new to him and eye openers to him. I think I saw from yesterday's first two practices a good growth there."

Still, Mack, who is on a partially guaranteed deal, could find himself fighting for a roster spot.

"It's always a competition," Mack said. "Every year someone's coming into the NBA and someone has to leave.""

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