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Leading by Example

December 22, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Avery Warley and the Lady Flames will return from Christmas Break Monday at 4:30 p.m., when they take on Cornell in the opening game of the Marriott Cavalier Classic at Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena.

Avery Warley and the Lady Flames will return from Christmas Break Monday at 4:30 p.m., when they take on Cornell in the opening game of the Marriott Cavalier Classic at Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena.

This feature article appeared in the second edition of Flames Illustrated for the 2009-10 basketball season. Warley has started all eight games for the 6-2 Lady Flames, averaging 8.5 ppg and ranking second on the team with 7.9 rpg.

If it wasn't for a woman by the name of Avis Warley, Liberty standout Avery Warley may have never picked up a basketball.

As a seventh-grader, the self-professed "girly girl" showed no interest in the game. Her P.E. teacher, who was also the girls' basketball coach, made multiple attempts to convince her to try out for the team, because she towered over most of her peers. She resisted.

Finally, the teacher sent her home one afternoon with forms for her mother to sign, urging her to give the game a shot.

She never gave her mom the forms.

As a last resort, the teacher called Avery's mom, who was able to convince her to give it a chance. If she didn't like it, her mother said, she could quit.

Once Avery backed down and joined the team, she was hooked and never looked back.

"I like that it's a game of hunger, a game of motivation, a game of determination," Warley said. "You have to have so much to play this game."

After a successful career at H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C., where she helped her team to the DCIAA championship as a freshman and as a senior, the 6-3 athlete found herself on her way to Lynchburg to play basketball for Coach Carey Green and the Liberty Lady Flames.

"I really liked the atmosphere at Liberty," Warley remembers. "It was totally different than what I was used to. I'm a city girl. I needed some structure and I needed God."

For eligibility reasons, Warley had to sit out her first two years before making her debut in 2008. That setback, she says, taught her a lot about herself.

"It taught me patience, understanding and trust," she said. "Everything before that had come so easily for me. Coming here, it was a transition to get used to not having everything handed to me."

When she finally made her debut last season, it seemed well worth the wait. She started all 33 games in the post for the Lady Flames, and was voted Liberty's first-ever Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) State Rookie of the Year. Her 256 rebounds were the second-most boards by a freshman in program history.

When she speaks of the 2008-09 season, she is all smiles.

To Warley, highlights from her first year include her season-high 18 rebounds against Virginia Tech, a game where she says all of her teammates were on the same page. Also, she called her first game against VCU a dream come true. And her first trip to the NCAA tournament, after helping her team win the Big South title, is something she says will stay with her for the rest of her life.

This season brings a very different team to the floor, after losing standouts Megan and Moriah Frazee, plus Rachel Hammond and Rebecca Lightfoot. But the Lady Flames have seen consistent success in recent years, and Warley has no doubt that this season will be any different.

"Our motto is to rise above, because we have so much expectation," Warley explained. "Liberty has never had such a young team. I feel that we have that pressure to be the best, but not pressure to fill anyone's shoes."

Warley sees her role as leading by example. "I have to be a leader, but I'm more of a leader who leads by action," she said. "I have a role to rebound and to just play as hard as I can, and bring my all to every game. It's more of a motivation to my teammates than if I was concentrating on telling them what I think they should do."

Coach Green said he has enjoyed watching Warley mature as an individual and as an athlete since coming to Liberty.

"She has been a pleasure to work with and it's exciting to see her develop in all areas. We're expecting her to show great leadership in the inside post game, and we have high expectations from her. She has worked extremely hard, and gotten much stronger and quicker due to her offseason conditioning program. I feel like there will be a lot of people surprised by her as we move into conference play."

Warley, who admits she loves to play Pac-Man and go to the movies when she's not training, hopes to be a psychiatrist or a social worker after she graduates. She says she's not a vocal person, but when it comes to listening, she feels like she can help others. She also says that while she comes off as intimidating, she wants others to know that she's genuine and cares about people.

Warley's goal this year is to always give her best, and encourage her teammates to do the same. "I have to do what I have to do, Avery has to be Avery," she said. "I'm going to strive for the best no matter what. If everyone gives their all for every game, we can have some very positive things come from that."

And her main source of motivation? Her mother, the one who guided her toward the basketball court years ago.

"She's been my everything," Warley said. "Her character as a mother and as a woman is just amazing. She's shown me how to be a woman of God and take what life gives you to the best of your ability. She's a single mother with three kids, and I've never heard her complain or have any regrets. "She's my source of motivation."
Jennifer Shelton is an athletics communications graduate assistant for Liberty University.