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Posting Up with Liberty's Big Men

October 23, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Redshirt senior Tyler Baker returns for his final season as Liberty's veteran forward.

Redshirt senior Tyler Baker returns for his final season as Liberty's veteran forward.

Before the first whistle is blown marking the beginning of the 2009-10 Liberty men's basketball season, LibertyFlames.com will preview this year's roster, breaking down each player according to position. This week, we take a look at the Flames' post players.

The Forwards

This season's class of Flames forwards is headlined by redshirt senior Tyler Baker. After missing almost the entire 2007-08 campaign with an injured left foot, the 6-9 Baker made his long-awaited return to the court this past season on Dec. 17. The versatile veteran is a scorer and defender, who stretches defenses with his long range shooting ability.

"When Tyler is healthy, he is a guy who can help our team in a lot of ways," head coach Dale Layer said. "He can do a lot of things, but it is all predicated on whether he can be healthy for the next six months."

Along with his versatility, Baker brings an abundance of leadership to a group of forwards that also includes newcomers Antwan Burrus, Patrick Konan and Taylor Jensen. Averaging 22.2 points and 9.6 rebounds as a senior at South Central High School, the 6-6 Burrus is dangerous from both the perimeter and the post. Joining Burrus is fellow freshman and Ivory Coast native Konan. The first official Layer signee, Konan, who stands at 6-5, adds even more of a post/perimeter threat to the Flames roster and is hailed by Layer as a defensive stopper.

"I like Patrick's versatility," Layer stated. "He's got a very good future here at Liberty."

Rounding out the quartet is Jensen, a walk-on from Ashburn, Va. Standing at 6-9, Jensen played two seasons at Clearwater Christian College before transferring and is regarded as a skilled big man who continues to show signs of improvement.

The Centers

After appearing in only five contests during the 2008-09 campaign, Carter McMasters returns to the Flames lineup this season after receiving a medical redshirt for a stress fracture in his right leg. Before going down, the 6-11 McMasters was highly touted out of Grace Baptist Academy, ranking No. 34 on ESPN.com's power forward recruiting list in 2008. Now back at 100 percent health, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native looks to make up for lost time and build upon the success that made him a 2008 McDonald's All-America nominee.

Coach Layer says with added experience, strength and repetition, McMasters possesses the skills to be a real factor in the Big South.

"I think that is his potential," he said. "Carter has worked really hard in the offseason to fulfill some of that potential and now is the time for him to step up and give us great minutes at his position and be a force in our league."

Backing up McMasters as a big man is 6-10 freshman Joel Vander Pol. Hailing from Fort Meyers, Fla., Vander Pol brings a shot blocking, rebounding and scoring presence to the Flames' arsenal. In his senior season at Evangelical Christian High School, he averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds per game, ranking No. 1 in boards and blocks in the Southwest Florida region.

"Joel has been a pleasant surprise," Layer said. "He's one of the most improved guys on our team. He has quickly established a high work ethic, high energy level and degree of toughness that has really helped our team. He is continuing to develop into someone who has a chance to be a really good player at Liberty."

Be sure to check back with LibertyFlames.com for the latest Liberty men's basketball coverage leading up to the Flames' season opener, Nov. 13 against George Mason at the Patriot Center. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. The following evening, Liberty returns to the Vines Center for its home opener with Southern Virginia at 7 p.m.