Entering his senior year of high school, Liberty senior point guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz had zero Division I offers. Now, he’s the winningest player in school history. He’s one of four seniors that has led the Liberty basketball program from an afterthought to a program that garners national respect.
Going from no offers to over 1,000 points in college is quite the road to travel, but that’s not where Georgie’s story starts. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Pacheco-Ortiz dreamed of one day playing college basketball on the big stage in the United States. His family and friends would huddle around the TV watching some of the game’s brightest stars shine at the collegiate level.
The summer after his freshman year of high school, he was spotted by a high school coach from Richmond, Virginia, Curt Kassab, who thought Pacheco-Ortiz had potential as a basketball player. After several conversations and a trip to Richmond, Georgie found his new home for the next 3 years at Deep Run High School. Kassab and his wife Stephanie welcomed him into their home as he got accustomed to life in the States.
“Better opportunity, better competition, better basketball player,” Pacheco-Ortiz said when asked why he made the decision to move so far away from home during high school. “Being able to play some of the best basketball in the world, NCAA college basketball is some of the best basketball in the world.”
That was his goal, but two years into his journey he still had no Division I offers to speak of. His senior season would not get off to a good start as he had a sports hernia at the beginning of his season. He and Kassab debated on whether or not he should have surgery then or wait until after the season.
“We talked about it for a couple weeks,” Pacheco-Ortiz remembers. “We decided to have my surgery after the season. I worked so hard, tried to prepare for the season.”
At the end of December, Liberty was in Richmond taking on VCU before quickly heading to South Bend to play Notre Dame. Ritchie McKay was in his first season back at Liberty, and the Flames were struggling, in the midst of a 12-game losing streak. Kassab called McKay and told him he should come watch Deep Run and Georgie play while he was in town. McKay wasn’t overly thrilled at the idea, as he had already seen Pacheco-Ortiz up close.
“We had Georgie at our Elite Camp,” said McKay. “Being the stellar evaluator that I am, I told his coach he wasn’t good enough. He was a little out of shape. Georgie is not a great 1-on-1 guy, and in a non-system like setting, you don’t appreciate him as a player.”
McKay and the Flames got destroyed by VCU, trailing by as many as 37 points before ultimately falling, 85-57. McKay knew the Flames needed a point guard, and being in town he decided to stop in and take another look at Georgie. Seeing him orchestrate the Deep Run offense, McKay had a change of heart.
“After the game, I received a call,” Pacheco-Ortiz said, as Coach McKay was on the line. “It was probably 10:30-11 p.m. He said, ‘We would like to offer you a scholarship.’ It was great. It was a great feeling. All three years in high school working hard for it, it’s paying off now.”
Liberty would be the only Division I school to offer, and the following April, he would sign to play with the Flames. That came at the conclusion of his senior season where he earned 5A First Team All-State honors and finished his career at Deep Run with 1,097 points.
“Leaving my family back in Puerto Rico to follow my dreams, all the obstacles I’ve been through since I got here to the States, only receiving one Division I scholarship, it was Liberty,” Georgie said. “Ritchie McKay gave me the opportunity, and Coach (Kyle) Getter was here too at the time. He believed in me and Coach McKay believed in me.”
Pacheco-Ortiz entered a Liberty program that was not in great shape. The Flames were coming off five consecutive losing seasons as they entered McKay’s 2nd season with the program. Georgie was not considered to be near the top of his recruiting class that included fellow point guard Xzavier Barmore and forwards Josiah Talbert and Brock Gardner. Yet, he’s the only one from that group still on the roster and he was the first one to make a significant contribution.
He was inserted into the starting lineup in just the third game of his career, and he has started 123 games since then. During the heart of conference play, Pacheco-Ortiz went over 100 consecutive minutes during his freshman campaign without recording a turnover. He scored 29 points in a double overtime win on the road against Gardner-Webb, also during his freshman season.
That season was just the start of something special. Pacheco-Ortiz will forever be remembered for the shot he hit in the ASUN Championship game to help lift the Flames over Lipscomb. It’s one of several clutch shots he’s hit during his Liberty career on his way to becoming the winningest player in school history.
“We came a long way,” Georgie said as he thought back over his journey to where he is today. “I never thought I would hear someone say you are the winningest player in Liberty history. I didn’t know that was possible. I’m not supposed to be here. If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be here to achieve this accomplishment.”
He’s already gone over 1,000 career points and 300 career assists and will soon surpass 300 career rebounds and 100 career steals. His 40.2% career mark from three-point range ranks among Liberty’s all-time leaders.
“Georgie’s been incredibly well coached,” said McKay. “He has a personality that attracts others. On the court, he’s trustworthy. Our guys trust him. He’s going to find a shot for his teammate, or for himself, or he’s going to take a charge. He’s going to get the ball up the floor, he might take 9 seconds, 9.5 seconds, but he’s going to get it to where it’s supposed to go. He’s an individual that has enlisted a trust amongst his teammates.”