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MBB Game Day Central: Virginia Intermont
Live Flames Sports Network Radio Broadcast
The Liberty men's basketball team opens its season at home on Friday, playing host to Virginia Intermont. The Flames have tangled with the Cobras once before, defeating the squad inside the Vines Center on Dec. 5, 2003, 90-65. The second meeting between the two teams is slated to take place at 7 p.m.
Liberty at Home
Liberty enters its game with Virginia Intermont touting a 29-9 record in home openers. Since moving into the Vines Center in 1990, the Flames have posted a 16-4 mark when playing its first home contest of the season.
Season Openers at Home
This season marks the 20th time the Flames have opened a campaign at home. Liberty is currently sporting a 16-3 record in season openers at home. Since the completion of the Vines Center, the Flames have posted an 8-3 mark in home openers.
Watch and Listen to the Flames
There will be a radio broadcast which will air on the Flames Sports Network (flagship WRVL 88.3 FM) with the new Voice of the Flames Alan York providing the play-by-play. York takes over play-by-play duties this season for longtime broadcaster Jerry Edwards, who retired this past spring after 29 years.
In addition to the radio broadcast, an Internet audio broadcast on LibertyFlames.com will be available. There will also be a live video stream broadcast via the Big South Network, available on BigSouthSports.com.
Liberty Virginia Intermont Series
Friday's matchup marks just the second meeting between Liberty and Virginia Intermont. In the previous meeting, which took place Dec. 5, 2003, the Flames defeated the Cobras in the Vines Center, 90-65. Larry Blair led the way for the Flames with 28 points, followed by Gabe Martin, who garnered a near double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Liberty Versus the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC)
Liberty enters Friday's contest with a 18-8 record all-time against current members of the AAC. The Flames are 9-6 against Bluefield, 2-2 against Bryan, 6-0 against Montreat and 1-0 against Virginia Intermont.
Last Season Opener at Home
The last time Liberty opened the season at home, the Flames played host to another AAC member – Montreat. On Nov. 14, 2008, Liberty defeated the Cavaliers, 97-77 to kick start the 2008-09 campaign. Four Flames finished the contest in double figures – Anthony Smith (25), Seth Curry (23), Brolin Floyd (15) and Kyle Ohman (14).
Back in the Day
Like Virginia Intermont, Liberty is no stranger to competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Before moving up the ranks to Division I play, Liberty joined the NAIA in 1975 as an associate member. The program transitioned to NCAA Division II in 1981, but was still eligible for NAIA postseason play. Prior to receiving its NAIA postseason eligibility, the Flames captured the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Championship in 1980.
Liberty dropped its NAIA affiliation completely in 1984, when it became eligible for NCAA Division II competition. Liberty moved to Division I on Sept. 1, 1988.
During its time in the association, Liberty produced one NAIA All-American, center Steve Issacs, who earned honorable mention honors in 1982 and 1983. Issacs also earned all-district honors from 1981-83. Other Liberty players to earn NAIA all-district honors include Mark Swift (1981), Greg McCauley (1982) and Kenny Gunn (1983). Former Liberty men's head coach Jeff Meyer, who coached the Flames from 1982-97, also earned NAIA All-District Coach of the Year Honors in 1982.
Another AAC Meeting Ahead
Virginia Intermont is not the only AAC member the Flames will meet this season. On Dec. 28, Liberty will host Union College at 7 p.m., marking the first meeting between the two teams.
Flames in November
Liberty enters Friday's game with a 76-74 record in the month of November. The Flames' best November record occurred during its NAIA days. During the 1982-83 season, second-year head coach Jeff Meyer, led the Flames to 4-0 record during the 11th month.
Sommy Ogukwe, a 6-7 freshman forward from Abuja, Nigeria, is not the first Liberty player born in the African nation. In fact, two of the four players whose jerseys are retired at Liberty are Nigerian natives – Peter Aluma and Julius Nwosu.
Nwosu, who played three seasons for the Flames (1991-1993), is a member of Liberty's 1,000-point club, finishing his collegiate career with 1,248 points (14th all-time). Nwosu is also second on Liberty's all-time list in blocks with 112. The center was the first Liberty player to ever play in the NBA, suiting up for three different teams – the San Antonio Spurs (1995), the Boston Celtics (1997) and the Utah Jazz (2000).
Nwosu is a native of Imo, Nigeria, which is approximately 372 miles from Ogukwe's hometown of Abuja.
Aluma, a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter at Liberty is seventh on Liberty's all-time scoring list with 1,715 career points. The former center holds the record for most blocks in a career by a Liberty payer with 366. In his freshman season with the Flames, he helped Liberty win its first Big South Championship and advance to its first ever NCAA Tournament in 1994. In 2008, he became the second Liberty athlete to be inducted into the Big South Hall of Fame. Aluma is a native of Lagos, Nigeria, which is approximately 466 miles from Abuja.
Like Father, Like Son
The first second-generation player at Liberty, Flames guard Evan Gordon is the son of former Liberty guard Eric Gordon (1981-1984). A three-year letterwinner at Liberty, the elder Gordon is 16th on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,154 points.
This past season, Evan started 25 of the Flames' 31 contests, finishing as Liberty's second-leading scorer with 372 points (12.0 ppg). The Indianapolis native was also named to the Big South All-Freshman Team and was the 2010 VaSID All-State Rookie of the Year. During his career as a Flame, Eric also earned VaSID honors, as he was named to the VaSID All-State College Division First Team in 1984.
Entering the season, point guard Jesse Sanders is closing in on 500 points, 400 rebounds and 300 assists for his career at Liberty. The Sugar Land, Texas native has recorded 474 tallies, 374 rebounds and 289 dimes during two seasons for the Flames.
One new face expected to bring instant experience to the Flames' roster is redshirt junior guard John Brown. A junior college transfer from Roane State, Brown averaged a double-double for the Raiders last season, posting 16.7 points while grabbing 11.0 rebounds per game. The 6-5 Savannah, Ga., native was rewarded for his efforts last season, earning National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-America second team honors. Before his time at Roane State, Brown suited up for The Citadel, receiving a spot on the 2008-09 SoCon All-Freshman Team.
The Brothers Sanders
After suiting up for the Flames for two seasons, starting point guard Jesse Sanders is joined this season by his younger brother, John Caleb. The brothers reunite after playing two seasons together with the HCYA Warriors (2006-07, 2007-08).
Jesse, who averaged 8.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season, became the first player in Big South and school history to garner two career triple-doubles when he posted 11 points, 10 boards and 10 assists against Kentucky Christian on Dec. 12. Sanders' first three-category performance occurred during his freshman season against Presbyterian College.
Much like Liberty's floor general, John Caleb has spent his high school career in the Homeschool Christian Youth Association (HCYA), matching up with the top 5A and prep schools in the Houston area. During his junior year, he was named to the All Greater Houston third team, averaging 28 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game and 4.7 assists per game. John Caleb helped the Warriors win three national homeschool championships, including one with his older brother.
Burrus is Back
Along with guards Jesse Sanders and Evan Gordon, sophomore forward Antwan Burrus will take the court as a returning starter for Liberty this season.
After seeing limited action the first 10 contests of the 2009-10 campaign, the 6-6 forward turned heads in Liberty's game against Kentucky Christian on Dec. 12, posting 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks in just 12 minutes of play.
In Liberty's first 10 contests last season, Burrus averaged 3.0 minutes, 2.0 points and 0.8 rebounds per game. From Burrus' breakout game through the remainder of the season, his numbers drastically increased, averaging 22.3 minutes, 8.9 points and 5.4 boards over the remaining 21 games for the Flames.
Burrus started the final 16 games of the season in the five spot for the Flames. During Liberty's home game against VMI on Jan. 28, the Winterville, N.C., native finished with a career-high 20 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a 91-73 Flames victory.
The Only One with Two Threes
Liberty concluded the 2009-10 campaign as the only Division I school in the country to have two players record a triple-double during the year. The first three category feat for the Flames occurred on Dec. 12, as Jesse Sanders posted 11 points, 10 boards and 10 assists against Kentucky Christian. In his final season as a Flame, Kyle Ohman also notched a triple-double, putting up 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 110-102 victory over VMI on Jan. 2.
No Rest in November
For the second straight year, Liberty will once again have a busy November. This season, the Flames play eight games over a 16-day span during the month of November, tying the record for the most contests during the month.
Last season, the Flames played an eight-game slate during the 11th month, finishing with a 3-5 record. Prior to the 2009-10 campaign, the last season in which Liberty played eight November games was in 1979 during the program's NAIA days. The team was coached by Dale Gibson and finished with a 4-4 November record (28-11 on the season).
Liberty has played 42 games without an overtime, dating back to the 2008-09 season. That season, the Flames played in five overtime contests, four of which went into double overtime. The last time Liberty played an extra period was on Feb. 4, 2009, when the Flames were edged on the road by Gardner-Webb, 95-90.
Liberty will look for someone to take charge in the scoring department this season, after losing leading scorer Kyle Ohman. The recent graduate finished his career at Liberty with 1,141 career points, 14 shy of passing Eric Gordon's mark of 1,154. Coincidentally, the leading candidate to fill Ohman's shoes is Eric's son Evan Gordon, who was Liberty's second leading scorer last season with 372 points (12.0 ppg).
Dishing It Out
Point guard Jesse Sanders finished with 152 assists (4.9 apg) last season, ranking 48th in the country in helpers. The floor general also ranked third in the Big South, behind UNC Asheville's J.P. Primm (172) and Radford's Amir Johnson (166). In his sophomore year, Sanders bested his previous season total of 137, which stands as the most helpers by a Liberty freshman. Sanders enters the season with 289 assists, needing 157 more to crack Liberty's Top 5 listing.
New Season, New Voice
Flames fans listening to the radio will hear a new voice this season. On July 6, Liberty Athletics hired former ISP broadcaster Alan York as its new radio play-by-play broadcaster for its football and men's basketball programs.
York will be replacing Liberty's legendary play-by-play broadcaster Jerry Edwards, who held the position of "Voice of the Flames" for 29 years before retiring from broadcasting last spring. York will be the fifth person to hold down the position as the Flames' play-by-play broadcaster for men's basketball.
For the past 12 years, York has been an assistant production manager for ISP, America's Home for College Sports on the radio for the last two decades.
While at ISP, York was based out of Winston-Salem, N.C., and was the lead broadcaster for the ACC National Game of the Week in football. He has also gained experience broadcasting various Wake Forest's men's and women's basketball and baseball programs.
Solid at the Line
Liberty finished the 2009-10 season with a productive year at the foul line, shooting 70.0 percent (468 of 669) from the charity stripe. The Flames finished the season as the Big South's leader in free throw percentage.
Home Court Advantage?
The Flames are looking to improve its record at home this season, after finishing 8-6 (.571) inside the Vines Center last season. The winning percentage was the lowest since the 2005-2006 season, when the Flames went 6-7 (.462) at home. Liberty's lowest winning percentage inside the Vines Center occurred during the 1990-91 season, when the Flames went 3-8 (.375) during home games. The following season, Liberty turned things around, finishing the season 14-1 at home and claiming the best winning percentage in the Vines Center (.933).