Liberty men's basketball to play Oct. 24 exhibition game at Winthrop to fight racism
Liberty University’s men’s basketball team, the reigning ASUN Conference champion, will travel to former Big South Conference rival Winthrop University for a "United As One" preseason exhibition game on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Winthrop Coliseum as a way to take a united stand in opposing prejudice, bigotry, and racism.
"We are excited to partner with Winthrop University in a game that we hope raises support for many causes that could hopefully support those that are disadvantaged," Flames Head Coach Ritchie McKay said.
In an interview with Liberty Flames Sports Network and Game On anchor Matt Warner and Winthrop Head Coach Pat Kelsey, McKay cited former Indiana Pacers first-round NBA draft pick Clark Kellogg, now the lead college basketball analyst for CBS Sports, who tweeted Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity.”
“Here we get a chance to be a part of that and hopefully, we can inspire some hope in a lot of different lives,” McKay said. “We will have to see what (social distancing) restrictions there are in late October but hopefully this game will be a benefit to our different campuses and communities.”
The preseason opener is a marquee matchup between two of the 13 teams that had qualified with autobids to the 2020 NCAA Tournament, before it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The Flames won a school-record 30 games, capped by a March 8 ASUN Championship rematch triumph over Lipscomb in front of 7,728 fans at the Vines Center. Winthrop shared the Big South regular season title before defeating Hampton in the Big South Championship game.
Winthrop Head Coach Pat Kelsey has developed a longstanding relationship with McKay, who he considers a faith mentor.
“I look up to him greatly and he called me with this idea and I thought it was brilliant,” Kelsey said. "To be able to partner with him and his program for this special cause is awesome. Racism is a systemic problem in our country that needs to be eliminated. This game is a way to create a platform for the coaches, players and students from Liberty and Winthrop to make a difference … to raise awareness to fight racism, (promote) inclusiveness, (and) fight injustices in our country and around the globe.”
Both programs run pack-line defenses, which McKay picked up as an associate head coach under Tony Bennett at the University of Virginia from 2009-15, between his two stints as Liberty’s Head Coach. Kelsey said the first contest between the two programs since 2018 will benefit both.
“Obviously, it was unfortunate for our league when Liberty left (the Big South Conference) because of the caliber of program that they are,” Kelsey said. “We’ve had some battles and I think there’s mutual respect there. Our programs stand for a lot of the same things on and off the court. It’s going to sharpen both of our saws and get us ready for a very tough non-conference slate that both of us have.”
Liberty has participated in exhibition games in the past in order raise financial support. The Flames hosted Virginia Tech in 2018 in a Hurricane Relief exhibition, which raised over $36,000. In 2017, the Flames traveled to VCU to raise money for the hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, staging an 85-69 win over the Rams.
Ticket information will be released at a later date.
Follow the Flames’ Men’s Basketball team on Liberty’s Athletics website.