Elijah Cuffee has had a solid career at Liberty during his first two seasons, but he is poised to take his game to the next level this season.
He has started 54 consecutive games, dating back to the midpoint of his true freshman campaign, while averaging 7.6 points on last year’s Liberty team that set a program-record with 29 wins and advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
Cuffee’s stat-line last year of 7.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game while finishing 2nd on the team with 33 steals and shooting 42.1% from 3 are certainly solid numbers, but he has shown flashes of being able to take his game to an All-Conference level.
“Elijah is one of those players that when it comes to winning a game, you trust,” Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay said. “Elijah Cuffee helped us a ton last year, I don’t see that changing. The thing you will notice, or you will appreciate, is how much more confident he has become because of how much he has invested in his game. He’s a really good player and even better person.”
Remember back to the Georgia State game last year when the Flames blew the Panthers out of the Vines Center. Cuffee had a huge hand in that. He scored a career-high 19 points in 34 minutes while connecting on 5 of his 7 three point attempts all the while adding 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. He had a total of eight double figure scoring games last season, highlighted by the GSU game and a game against Kennesaw State when he scored 16 in just 24 minutes.
Those performances can become more commonplace for the 6’4″ rising junior.
Cuffee’s never been the first, second, or even third option on the team. There’s been Ryan Kemrite, Lovell Cabbil, Scottie James, and Caleb Homesley. James and Homesley return this year, but there will be times that Cuffee’s number is called ahead of either first-team all-ASUN performer.
“The experience and being here at this level is going to help me this year,” Cuffee said. “Knowing that I can play at this level – I think that’s something that I’ve had to repeat to myself every year. Just knowing that this year, that will be a big deal for me.”
With Lovell Cabbil graduating, Cuffee will get more opportunities on the offensive end. He will also be tasked as the team’s defensive stopper on opposing teams’ best perimeter player. Cuffee got that assignment on occasion last year, but with Cabbil gone he will be McKay’s first option.
“I definitely want to be more consistent offensively and producing more for the team, whether that’s scoring or assisting,” Cuffee said of his goals for this season. “Being more consistent this year, that’s a big goal for me.”
For the second straight summer, Cuffee is not only preparing for the basketball season, he’s also preparing for a summer mission trip where he can mix his love for basketball and missions. Last year, he went to China where he worked with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This summer, Cuffee will return to China while also heading to Sudan.
“I’m going to be able to go back to China,” Cuffee explained. “Then, I will be able to travel to Sudan. That will be fun, especially the Sudan part because that will be new. (We’re) trying to lay the foundation for the future of this ministry group. We will be doing the same thing as last year when we went and worked a bunch of basketball camps, helped the guys over there learn some drills and how to schedule their basketball camps.”
After his trip overseas, Cuffee and the Flames will soon begin preparation for defense of the 2019 ASUN crown, and Cuffee’s performance will have a huge impact on Liberty’s season.