Liberty Men’s Basketball Team Prepares for a Transition Year
Liberty basketball fans can expect a variety of new things this year – new players, a new arena and a completely new schedule.
After the 2019-20 season, the Flames had four seniors graduate that were an important part of the program: Myo Baxter-Bell, Caleb Homesley, Scottie James, and Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz.
Mid-major programs like Liberty thrive off the chance to build an experienced core of older players who stick around for longer than a year or two, but when a collegiate program graduates key players, younger players have to step up. Junior guard Darius McGhee will be one of those players after two years of integrating into the team under the watch of Liberty’s old guard.
“It definitely gives me more of a leadership role and shows what I’ve learned over the years and puts me in a position to not only to continue to learn but to instill in others,” McGhee said. “So, with the freshman class I’ll constantly try to make an effort to go talk to them and help this transition be as easy as possible, just like the guys ahead of me did for me.”
To fill out the roster, the Flames have added four freshmen – three guards and one forward.
With the help of these new players and the leadership of McGhee and senior Elijah Cuffee, the Flames hope to get off to a quick start this season.
Liberty will tip off the season next week when it takes part in the Space Coast Challenge, along with Clemson, Mississippi State and Purdue. The Flames first contest will take place Wednesday, Nov. 25, against Purdue at 6 p.m. with national TV coverage on CBS Sports Network.
ASUN competition will start Jan. 1 as a Flames take on rival Lipscomb. Due to COVID-19, ASUN competition will be a little bit different this year. ASUN teams will play each other back-to-back on the weekends, with both games in the same arena, to reduce traveling.
“Do I like it, no. Do I understand it, yes,” Coach Ritchie McKay said. “I’m just excited that we get a chance to play, I’m not going to complain about inconveniences or the unknown.”
Last season, while playing in the Vines Center, the Flames went undefeated at home (17-0). Liberty hopes to continue that winning streak as the team moves into a new arena.
The Flames will play in the new Liberty Arena that is attached to the Vines Center. The 125,000-square-foot arena can host up to 4,000 people and will also serve as the home of the women’s basketball team and the women’s volleyball team.
All construction is expected to be done by the first home basketball game on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. against Saint Francis University.
Flames fans also welcomed news of two new recruits during national signing day last week.
McKay announced two high school standouts that have signed to the program, who could both make a big impact when they join the Flames next year.
Brody Peebles is a 6-foot-2-inch guard coming out of Hartselle, Alabama. While playing at Hartselle High School he was ranked the No. 2 prospect in Alabama by PrepHoops.com.
“Brody doesn’t look the part, when you walk into the gym you might think he’s the coach’s son or even a manager, but when he walks between those lines, he is a basketball savant,” McKay said. “Brody really has a bright future. I think when it’s all said and done, he’ll be one of Liberty’s men’s basketball finest.”
Joseph Venzant is a 6-foot-3-inch guard from Midland, Texas. He is the highest-rated recruit in Liberty’s program history as a three-star prospect.
“Having had the Virginia (UVA Basketball) experience that I did, Tony Bennett loved big guards,” McKay said. “Joseph has this big frame, physicality, long arms, length and athleticism that reminds me of a (Malcolm) Brogdon (former UVA point-guard) type that we had at UVA.”
Both Peebles and Venzant will join the Flames squad for the 2021-22 season.
Emmanuel Adamson is a Social Media Manager. Follow him on Twitter at @Eadamson12.