Liberty Basketball Aims To Build On Last Year’s Foundation With New Recruiting Class
After finishing the 2020-2021 season with a disappointing loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of March Madness, the Liberty men’s basketball team turns its head toward the future.
The Flames are ready for another chance to dominate the ASUN and earn a bid to appear in their sixth NCAA Tournament. The Flames have been active in the offseason to ensure that Liberty will continue its success in the 2021-2022 season.
Liberty University extended Head Coach Ritchie McKay’s contract in April for the third time in three seasons, keeping him in Lynchburg through 2028.
McKay has been instrumental to Liberty’s success since he returned to the program in 2015. He has taken the Flames to four consecutive conference championships, winning his last three, and securing three March Madness bids in a row, including the 2020 tournament that was cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The program snagged its first NCAA tournament game win in 2019, defeating Mississippi State in the round of 64.
The Flames have also brought in an impressive 2021 signing class to bolster an already strong roster.
Guard D.J. Moore signed with the Flames April 28. The three-star Ohio prospect, according to 247Sports, amassed 1,323 points in just three seasons at Worthington Christian, where he was a three-year starter and team captain.
“We’re very excited to have D.J. Moore sign to be a part of our family,” McKay said on Instagram. “(We’re) anxious for him to get here and really excited about his future.”
Moore joins fellow 2021 signing class players Joseph Venzant and Brody Peebles, who signed with the Flames on National Signing Day in November.
Venzant enters Liberty as the highest recruit in school history with his three-star prospect rank and 20th-best prospect rank in the state of Texas by 247 Sports. Peebles also has an impressive resume, averaging 29.1 ppg during his junior season. Peebles is ranked as the No. 2 prospect from Alabama by PrepHoops.com.
“To add these two players to our backcourt, I think is a tremendous addition to the really good players we already have in our program,” McKay said on National Signing Day. “I am excited about their immediate impact and the prospects of that, but I am also excited about them as individuals. Liberty University is a special place, and these two young men will add value to our already tremendous campus.”
The 2021 signing class will have big shoes to fill. The Flames are losing four players, including this year’s ASUN Defensive Player of the Year, senior Elijah Cuffee. Cuffee leaves Liberty as the winningest player in program history.
Despite its losses, Liberty stacks up nicely to contend in the ASUN next year. The new recruits will be joined by junior Darius McGhee, who will return to the court for the Flames next season. McGhee was named the 2020-21 ASUN Player of the Year and the ASUN Tournament MVP. Sophomore Kyle Rode, who was named to this season’s ASUN All-Tournament team, and redshirt sophomore Blake Preston, who snagged four double-doubles this season, will also be returning with McGhee.
With an impressive signing class to mesh with the current squad, the Flames will have the chance to continue their dominance in the ASUN and punch their ticket to the Big Dance next March.
Sarah Tate is a Copy Editor.