After leading the Flames to a top five seed in the 2016 Big South Championship, Liberty men's basketball head coach Ritchie McKay has been voted the Big South Coach of the Year by the league's head coaches and media panel. The announcement was made this afternoon by the conference office.
Along with McKay, redshirt sophomore guard John Dawson earned all-conference honorable mention. Redshirt sophomore guard/forward Ryan Kemrite rounded out Liberty's honorees, receiving a spot on the conference's all-academic team.
McKay returned to Liberty on April 1, 2015 after spending six seasons as an associate head at Virginia. Despite being predicted to finish 11th in the Big South Preseason Poll, the Flames clinched the No. 5 seed and a first round bye in the 2016 Big South Championship, finishing 10-8 in conference play. Liberty's win total marks the first time the program has garnered 10 Big South victories since the 2010-11 season, when the Flames set a program record with 13 conference wins.
This year, Liberty's Big South slate was highlighted by a seven-game win streak in games played Jan.19-Feb.13, marking the fourth longest streak in program history. During the span, the Flames earned two wins over preseason favorite and current No. 1 seed High Point, as well as an 88-77 victory over No. 2 seed Winthrop (Feb. 2). This past Saturday, Liberty clinched a top five seed in this week's Big South Championship with an 86-81 win over Gardner-Webb, tying a program record with 17 three-pointers. The Flames enter postseason play second in the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to 68.0 ppg.
After sitting out the first 11 games due to the NCAA transfer rule, Dawson burst onto the scene, debuting with a 15-point performance at Princeton. In 20 games, Dawson averaged 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. The Clovis, N.M. native was instrumental in helping the Flames pick up their first road win in nearly two years on Jan. 6. With 14 seconds left, Dawson knocked down a clutch three-pointer to seal the 62-61 win over Coastal Carolina inside The HTC Center. On Jan. 23, Dawson displayed late-game heroics again, connecting on a layup with two ticks left to give the Flames a 69-67 win over High Point.
Dawson played a key role in Liberty's win over then first place Winthrop, scoring 20 points in the victory. On Feb. 18, he netted a career-high 22 tallies in a meeting with the Radford Highlanders. In conference contests, Dawson finished 13th in scoring (13.8 ppg) and fourth in defensive rebounds (5.4 rpg).
A business major and Big South Presidential Honor Roll member, Kemrite currently holds a 3.373 cumulative grade point average. On the court, the redshirt sophomore has started 27 contests, averaging 8.5 points and four rebounds per game.
On Nov. 14, Kemrite posted a career-high 22 points in a 90-52 victory over Summit. The guard later had a 17-point showing in the Flames' contest at VCU (Dec. 27). Kemrite was a big factor in Liberty's 69-55 road win at Gardner-Webb, earning his first collegiate double-double with a 14-point, 10-rebound effort. Kemrite's 10 boards marked a career-high for the Conroe, Texas native.
2015-16 Men's Basketball All-Conference First-Team All-Conference John Brown, F, R-Sr., High Point Keon Johnson, G, Jr., Winthrop DeSean Murray, F, Soph., Presbyterian College Jimmy Gavin, G, Gr., Winthrop Lotanna Nwogbo, F/C, R-Sr., Longwood
Second-Team All-Conference Xavier Cooks, F, Soph., Winthrop Rashun Davis, G, Sr., Radford Adam Weary, G, Sr., High Point Tyrell Nelson, F, Jr., Gardner-Webb Chris Clemons, G, Fr., Campbell
Honorable Mention All-Conference Shivaughn Wiggins, G, R-Jr., Coastal Carolina John Dawson, G, R-Soph., Liberty Cameron Jones, G, Sr., Radford Elijah Wilson, G, Jr., Coastal Carolina Dylan Smith, G, Fr., UNC Asheville
All-Freshman Team Chris Clemons, G, Fr., Campbell Dylan Smith, G, Fr., UNC Asheville Dwayne Sutton, G, Fr., UNC Asheville Armel Potter, G, Fr., Charleston Southern Ed Polite Jr., F, Fr., Radford
All-Academic Team Jacob Talbert, G, Jr., Campbell Patrick Wallace, G, Jr., Charleston Southern Tristian Curtis, F, Sr., Coastal Carolina Tyrell Nelson, F, Jr., Gardner-Webb Austin White, G, Soph., High Point Ryan Kemrite, G, R-Soph., Liberty Charlie Inclan, G, Jr., Presbyterian College Justin Cousin, G, R-Soph., Radford Kevin Vannatta, G, Soph., UNC Asheville
Player of the Year John Brown, F, R-Sr., High Point
Freshman of the Year Chris Clemons, G, Fr., Campbell
Defensive Player of the Year John Brown, F, R-Sr., High Point
Coach of the Year Ritchie McKay, Liberty
Scholar-Athlete of the Year Tristian Curtis, F, Sr., Coastal Carolina
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