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2013-14 Men's Hoops Outlook: Posts

October 30, 2013
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Antwan Burrus

As the Liberty men's basketball team prepares for its Nov. 8 season opener versus Randolph, LibertyFlames.com will provide a four-part preview of the 2013-14 season. Today's article provides a look at the Flames' post players.

Fully recovered from a foot injury that sidelined him the entire 2012-13 season, Antwan Burrus returns to the court for his redshirt senior year. Entering his final season, Burrus (104) needs nine more blocks to reach the No. 2 spot on Liberty's all-time blocked shots list. The 6-6 forward is also on pace to join teammate John Caleb Sanders in the 1,000-point club.

This summer, Burrus played alongside Davon Marshall in Jamaica with Athletes in Action (AIA). During the team's third game versus Jamaica Professional Basketball League All-Stars (JABA), Burrus led AIA with 16 points and six rebounds in an 88-56 victory.

"It will be good to have Antwan back after sitting out last year due to injury," Layer said. "He's a guy that should be in the conversation for all-conference at the end of the year. He should be a double-double type guy. Consistency is what we're going to need from him. He needs to exert energy at every stretch of every game. He can impact the game in great ways if he's engaged every moment."

Burrus will have others around him to shoulder the load in the four and five spots, with four other returners who bring a wealth of playing experience – JR Coronado, Sommy Ogukwe, Andrew Smith and Joel Vander Pol.

Coronado is coming off a season in which he grabbed 295 rebounds, marking the third most by a Liberty junior in a single season. The Venezuelan native also posted 18 boards in Liberty's game against Austin Peay, setting a single-game Vines Center record for most rebounds by a Liberty player.

After missing the 2011-12 season due to a knee injury, Ogukwe returned to the Flames lineup, last year. While Layer notes the forward "battled confidence with his knee," he expects Ogukwe to have a greater defensive impact in his redshirt junior season.

Although he may not have filled the stat sheet for the Flames during the 2012-13 regular season, Smith gave the team a shot of adrenaline with his big blocks and authoritative alley-oops. Just before postseason play began, Smith's work ethic allowed him to crack the starting lineup, holding onto the nod throughout the Flames' impressive run in the Big South Championship. Smith dazzled those watching the national telecast of Liberty's NCAA First Four contest, throwing down a thunderous two-handed alley-oop off a John Caleb Sanders pass in the second half. Expect Smith to turn those flashes of gifted athleticism into longer stretches of production in 2013-14.

After battling back injuries for the last season, Vander Pol returns for his redshirt senior year with a clean bill of health. After missing the first 10 games in 2012-13, the 6-10 center provided the Flames with the depth it needed in the post. Vander Pol's 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench in Liberty's 65-62 win over Gardner-Webb in the 2013 Big South Championship helped spur the Flames on to their third conference title.

"I'm hopeful he can stay healthy and continue to move forward because he's a valuable piece of our program," Layer said.