Dawson loses year of eligibility, now a senior
When John Dawson transferred to Liberty from Marquette two years ago, he left after playing 4 minutes in Marquette’s season opener against UT Martin. He didn’t play in any other games that season, and transferred at the conclusion of that Fall semester of 2014. After sitting out the 2015 Spring and Fall semesters due to NCAA transfer rules, he became eligible for the Flames in mid-December 2015. Dawson played in Liberty’s final 21 games and was the team’s leading scorer averaging 13.4 points per game.
NCAA rules state that if a student-athlete plays 1 minute in a season that counts as a year of eligibility. Teams are able to appeal this decision, and many times the NCAA awards the student-athlete an extra year of eligibility. That wasn’t the case for Dawson as he found out during the offseason that his appeal was denied.
“I didn’t really ask to know what was going on,” Dawson said. “They just told me, ‘You didn’t get the year back. Do you want to know why?’ I said no. I just felt like I was going to take this one step at a time, and make this year the best that I can moving forward as a team, help grow a great culture or keep building on to the culture that we have here.”
“I can’t speak to the appeal process or anything like that,” McKay said, “but what I can speak to is he’s ours and we’re fortunate to have him. I love him. His leadership has grown. I’m really proud to be one of his coaches. Hopefully this year is great for him because he deserves to be remembered by some of the deposits he’s made, and the better run we have as a team, the more he will be remembered.”
“I’m looking forward to this year,” Dawson explained. “This year should be a real fun year for us and the guys. We’ve got a lot of new guys. It will be a great experience for the college and just playing basketball again.”
MYO Baxter-Bell impresses
Redshirt-freshman Myo Baxter-Bell was on campus last year, but was academically-ineligible to compete with the team. He has impressed the coaching staff all Summer and made waves during the team’s trip to Costa Rica in August. At 6’5″ and 255 pounds, Myo is expected to contribute inside immediately.
“Myo has a little bit of a sense of what we do and how we do it because he was here starting in the 2nd semester last year,” McKay said. “He will be a fan favorite. He’s so lovable. One of the nicest kids you will ever meet, but I want him to be not-so-nice on the court. He’s a poor man’s version of a (Charles) Barkley, maybe without the explosiveness. He has a real strong skill set, and gives us a little bit of a presence inside and another dimension defensively because of how quick he can move his feet.”
True Freshman Brock Gardner Expected to make an immediate impact
Brock Gardner chose Liberty over offers from Air Force, Central Arkansas, Columbia, Dartmouth, Lehigh, UC Davis, and UTEP. The 6’7″, 210 pound prospect is from Chandler, Arizona. Liberty’s coaching staff expects him to make an immediate impact on the team this season. His name was brought up, unprompted, by both Caleb Homesley and John Dawson when asked about the newcomers.
“Brock is probably the most acclaimed recruit (we brought in this year),” McKay said. “Brock has got good size. He’s got a knack to score the ball, and he’s fearless. Brock is fearless. We targeted him fairly early in the process, and feel really fortunate that Liberty was a place where he would want to continue his career as a student athlete and as a basketball player.”
Fearless Freshman Foursome
McKay brought in a freshman class of 4 – guard Xzavier Barmore, forward Brock Gardner, guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, and forward Josiah Talbert. They are beginning to earn a nickname of the Fearless Foursome. (As noted above) McKay was quick to point out Brock Gardner’s fearlessness, and John Dawson took it step further by calling the entire freshmen class fearless.
“What I’ve seen in the freshmen is that all of our freshmen are fearless,” Dawson said. “They will go in head first. They’re not scared of anybody.”
Here are two other notable quotes from Coach McKay:
“We have uncommon character. Our guys are really good people and a terrific fit for Liberty, but we’re still young and inexperienced. We’re a little bit ahead because we went to Costa Rica and we had 10 practices. Our guys know our terminology and our expectation probably a little bit more than some of the programs that are in our shoes, still young, growing, because we had the 10 practices.”
“Liberty’s a great place. It warrants attracting not only a really, really good player, but a great person. So, with that, if you have great people and really good players, then you have a chance to do something grand. My hope is we’re sprinting in that direction, not just jogging, but I want to sprint. Coach Bennett used to always say there’s an old African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I want to go far, so I will slow down the sprint to honor the process, but my personality is to be in a hurry to get there.”