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First Week of Practice for Men's Hoops is in the Books

October 21, 2007
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Alex McLean has been one of the many bright spots during the first week of practice.

Alex McLean has been one of the many bright spots during the first week of practice.


The first week of practice for the Liberty's men's basketball team has been rigorous, but rewarding for new head coach Ritchie McKay and his troops.

The Flames, using the foundation from the Canadian tour experience, spent their first week on the hardwood diving into the new system.

"We don't lack for effort," said McKay. "Our guys are playing hard. We still need to get used to the system and what we emphasize in it, but that will come. Being a first-year coach, I am very pleased with how much we have carried over from the Canadian tour and the practices leading up to that, to what we have applied right now."

Practices generally start out with the guards on one end of the floor, working on shooting drills from the elbow and three-point ranges. Post players work on posting up and taking jump shots from the 10-15 foot range.

Practice continues with a warmup of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. Unlike static stretching, the end position is not held.

Stretching is followed with a variety of full-court, five-on-five drills, before moving on to positional one-on-one drills. Post players match up versus post players and the guards work against each other.

The Flames then jump into offensive and defensive schemes. As the practice draws to a close, the Flames run full-court game situations utilizing the schemes they are working on. McKay stresses an importance on free-throw shooting, and no practice will end until a player gets put on the spot to make a free throw. On a normal practice day, three players, chosen at random, will head to the line. Some days for fun, a manager might be called upon as the fourth individual to sink a ball from the charity stripe.

Ritchie McKay on the First Week Standouts
"Alex [McLean] is playing really well, he is really becoming a presence for us down low. B.J. [Jenkins] has put together a great week of practice and Rell [Porter] has been tremendous. I am happy with a bunch of our guys like Kyle Ohman. Kyle was our biggest surprise the first 10 days, in preparation for Canada. I feel like we have a good group that is pretty balanced."

Tip-ins
Liberty had a special guest in attendance during Wednesday's practice. Eric Lautenbach, a VP of Nike and its Director of College Basketball Sports Marketing department, was on hand. Lautenbach, a friend of McKay, was in the South to visit three schools. The schools were Duke, Liberty and North Carolina.

Nike, which has partnered in a small capacity with Liberty basketball since the Jeff Meyer era, has become a full-fledged supplier and sponsor of Flames basketball with the hire of McKay. Lautenbach acknowledged to the team that there is something very special happening with Liberty basketball and that Nike wants to be a part of it. That acknowledgement led to Liberty becoming a Nike school last spring.