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2011-12 Men's Basketball Outlook: Shooting Guards/Small Forwards
With the 2011-12 men's basketball season just over a week away, LibertyFlames.com is featuring a four-part series that will preview the upcoming year. Today's article provides a look at the Flames' point shooting guards/small forwards.
If head coach Dale Layer were giving out a most improved player award, the honor would go to redshirt senior David Minaya, hands down. Coming off a disappointing season in 2009-10 in which the Tennessee Tech transfer averaged 3.1 points per game, Minaya turned things around this past season, rounding out the Flames' quartet of double-digit scorers with 10.7 tallies per contest. Minaya proved he could be the go-to guy if need be, putting up 22 and 20-point efforts in home victories over VMI and Gardner-Webb, respectively.
"David was the most improved guy on our team from my first year to last year," Layer commented. "He continues to embrace a terrific work ethic and continues to improve. We are counting on him to finish off his career in a huge way."
In terms of pure shooting guards, John Caleb Sanders, the younger brother of point guard Jesse Sanders, gives the Flames some firepower from behind the three-point arc. As a freshman, the Sugar Land, Texas native was second on the team in three-point field goals, knocking down treys in key moments. During Liberty's home contest with Big South regular-season champion Coastal Carolina on Jan. 8, John Caleb posted 16 points in 16 minutes, earning Big South Freshman of the Week honors for his performance.
"John Caleb had a really solid freshman season," Layer said. "I think he was a little disappointed at times, but what he experienced was what many freshmen experience. There were games where he was tremendous.
There were games where he was a little unsure, but I suspect that will set him up for much more consistent stellar play, because he's a very talented player and will play a major role on this year's team."
With John Caleb Sanders on the outside, a new addition to the Flames roster is likely to have an impact from mid-range – junior college transfer Tavares Speaks.
Speaks, a 6-4 guard, is a graduate of Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C., and joins the Flames' roster after spending two seasons at Cape Fear Community College (Wilmington, N.C.).
This past season, Speaks averaged 18.3 points per game, shooting 50.0 percent (222-of-444) from the field, including 33.3 percent (14-of-42) from the three-point arc. The Raleigh, N.C., native was also solid from the charity stripe, knocking down 164-of-216 shots (75.9 percent) at the foul line. A first team junior college All-America selection, Speaks helped lead the Sea Devils to a 26-9 record this past season and an appearance in the National Junior College Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
"Tavares played for a former Liberty player at Cape Fear Junior College by the name of Ryan Mantlo, who had a great two-year career here at Liberty," Layer commented. "Tavares was first team All-American in junior college which puts him in elite company. He can score the ball in different ways. He is a very good defender. He is unselfish. He's got a great spirit about him and will fit in very well."
One senior and two freshmen round out the players likely to see action in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots this season. Tanner Hoyt, a walk-on from Winterville, N.C., longed to wear the Flames jersey upon arriving at Liberty. Beginning as a team manager, Hoyt earned his spot on the roster last season and continues to embrace his role with the team.
"Tanner is the best teammate on this year's team," Layer said. "He continues to work and improve. He affects our team every day by his work ethic, attitude and spirit."
Hart Gliedman and Ethan Layer are two freshmen that possess range from outside the three-point arc. Gliedman, a product of Long Island Lutheran (LuHi), will take the court this season after redshirting during the 2010-11 season. The New York native closed out his tenure at LuHi as a 1,000-point scorer and one of Long Island's Top 10 players.
"Hart brings toughness, rebounding, ability to score the ball and has a really good feel for the game," Layer said. "I expect Hart to be a contributor during his freshman year."
Ethan Layer, who is the youngest son of head coach Dale Layer, spent his final two high school seasons at Liberty Christian Academy. A two-time all-conference and all-tournament player with the Bulldogs, the 6-1 guard garnered all-state honorable mention during his senior year.
"Ethan had a really good high school career and has improved every year," Layer said of his son. "He is a very good shooter and has a good feel for the game. He needs some size and bulk, but he is arguably as good of a shooter as we have."