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McGhee says standout career has been more about people than points

By Ryan Klinker, March 15, 2023

*At press time, the Flames were preparing to enter the ASUN Championship game. Follow the team at LibertyFlames.com. The Flames’ season ended with a 67-66 loss to Kennesaw State.

When he hangs up his sneakers at the end of the 2022-23 season — his fifth in the backcourt of Liberty’s Men’s Basketball team — Darius McGhee will conclude a college career that spanned a time of incredible growth for the Flames and be recognized as one of the key figures in the program’s recent success.*

The 5-foot-9 guard from Roxboro, N.C., has been a massive on-court presence for the Flames and put up eye-catching stat lines that have been noticed on a national scale. To start the season, McGhee was listed on multiple watchlists for national awards, including the Bob Cousy Award, John R. Wooden Award, and the Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award. The 2021-22 season saw him named as a finalist for the Lou Henson Player of the Year Award. This season he was named ASUN Player of the Year for the third straight year.

Darius McGhee was honored on Feb. 9, before the home contest with Bellarmine, for becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,384 points entering the night). He was joined by the previous record-holder, Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Karl Hess (’80), and Head Coach Ritchie McKay (right). (Photo by Matt Reynolds)

On Feb. 4, during a battle at Lipscomb University, McGhee etched his name in the record books by becoming the program’s new all-time leading scorer, breaking Karl Hess’ record of 2,373 career points, which had stood for 43 years. The record-setting moment came at the 13:18 mark of the second half as McGhee knocked down a 3-pointer. 

In February, McGhee also became the ASUN’s all-time leading scorer and moved into second place in NCAA history for career 3-pointers made.

In thinking about the legacy he will leave at Liberty, McGhee said he wants to be remembered as “someone who played the game for more than just himself, whose accolades were never valued over experiences and relationships, and someone who always gave it his all no matter what the circumstances were.”

“It’s easy to focus on what your dreams are and what you want to pursue — basketball, money, whatever — but when you are poured into so much by a coaching staff, you start to understand that relationships are the biggest thing,” he said. “Look at how many people in these five years that I’ve met and had some sort of rapport with, and I’m taking something from that.”

(Photo by Emma Kendrick)

McGhee has also valued the interactions with fans, especially the young fans who approach him after games to meet him and express how they see him as a role model. 

“Seeing the little kids coming up and being excited to meet and take pictures with me (has been special),” he said. “When you’re a kid, you have those people that you look up to, so it’s cool to have that moment with the kids at games.”

Liberty Head Coach Ritchie McKay said that McGhee’s mix of humility, work ethic, and skill make him a type of player that does not come along often.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever coach another Darius McGhee, given his talent level and humility, which are rare,” McKay said. “He could score two or three points in a game, but if we won, he would be so excited for whoever scored the most points. I think what is understated in his time with us is his commitment to improving. You can look at how many points he scores and get seduced into thinking, ‘Wow, he’s really good because he scores a lot of points,’ but he’s improved defensively, he’s taking care of the ball, he’s making better decisions, and he’s got a voice in the locker room that when he says something (his teammates) listen.” 

“Not unlike the guys that have gone before him, he will be long remembered as a guy who is a phenomenal teammate and a really good player, instead of a phenomenal player and (just) a good teammate,” McKay added. 

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