The Liberty Men’s Basketball team held its first official practice of the 2018-2019 season at 1 pm Thursday, Sept. 27 in the Vines Center.
While this year’s squad features plenty of familiar faces, there is certainly no shortage of newcomers. Liberty added three new coaches in the offseason, as well as four freshmen and graduate transfer Keenan Gumbs. Head Coach Ritchie McKay discussed the team’s new additions in a makeshift press conference Thursday afternoon.
“Derek Johnston, Kevin Anderson, Joe Pierre . . . they’re fabulous,” McKay said of his three new assistant coaches. “I’ve always been really blessed to have terrific men around me, men and women that serve mightily.”
McKay also highlighted his team’s experience. Liberty returns four of the five starters from last year’s team in addition to the majority of last year’s bench, most of which saw consistent playing time in 2017-2018.
“The experience is definitely welcome,” McKay said. “For us, I think we’re in that place in our program where we’re earning the right to be good. I think, maybe we hoped to be good earlier, then maybe we focused on just the results, but now we’re in that mode of the ability to earn.”
“And without question, our leaders, our older guys, guys that have been in the program have been the initiators of that pursuit.”
Liberty’s roster also welcomed the addition of freshmen Darius McGee, Blake Preston, Josh Price, and Tytist Dean. Additionally, the Flames added Keenan Gumbs: a graduate transfer from Schreiner University. In his senior year at Schreiner, Gumbs averaged 21 points per game, 7 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game en route to being named a National Association of Basketball Coaches Division III All-America third team.
“Hard to say his name and not have me smile,” McKay said of Gumbs. “He’s fabulous. What an incredible young man. He’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team to have success, he’s on time, he is a leader extraordinaire, and he’s a really good basketball player.”
“It’s not too complicated, but there’s definitely minor details that I’m not used to,” Gumbs said of adjusting to the program. “I feel like I’ve adjusted well . . . I’ve been learning pretty well, and my coaches aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m wrong, and I’m not afraid to accept criticism and just get better.”
A newcomer to the Atlantic Sun, the Flames face challenging in and out-of-conference schedules. Liberty will take on Alabama, Georgetown, Navy, UCLA, and Florida Gulf Coast: an ASUN team with a recent history of NCAA tournament success known to fans as, “Dunk City.”
“It’s just an amazing opportunity,” Gumbs said of Liberty’s schedule. “Not many schools get the opportunity to play big names like that, and we play four or five of them.”
“We’re just ready to embrace it and give it all we got.”