A new season of Liberty basketball is underway. On Thursday, Ritchie McKay conducted his first fall practice of the 2021-22 season. The Flames will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament and win a fourth consecutive ASUN regular season and tournament championship.

“This is my 32nd Division I first practice,” McKay said following the practice. “I can’t remember the other ones very well. I was just happy to not be restricted by time. I thought our guys brought a lot of energy and passion to the floor which is usually par for the course for them. It’s good to be out there. At least this day signifies the regular season tip is around the corner, excited about that for sure.”

The first practice came exactly six weeks ahead of Liberty’s first game of the season as the Flames are scheduled to open the year on November 11 against Regent at Liberty Arena. This year will be the first time the Flames get to play at the new arena with full capacity permitted. In the first season in the new on-campus facility last year, capacity was limited due to the COVID pandemic. The team also spent the first practice on the main floor inside Liberty Arena.

“A packed Vines Center in the ASUN Championship game against Lipscomb two years ago, our crowd that night was tremendous,” McKay said. “If we fill this Arena and create an atmosphere that was similar, or maybe even better because of the physical intimacy of Liberty Arena, I think it’s going to be worth a few points. I can’t wait until November 11th.”

Check out pictures from Liberty’s first practice of the 2021-22 season below:

Liberty returns three starters from last season’s squad that won 23 games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament before falling to 4-seed Oklahoma State in Indianapolis. Reigning ASUN Player of the Year Darius McGhee leads a talented group alongside Kyle Rode and Blake Preston. The Flames also return several key contributors from off the bench in Keegan McDowell, Shiloh Robinson, and Drake Dobbs. Newcomers include talented freshmen Brody Peebles and Joseph Venzant.

“This summer was really great for us from the standpoint of we were able to get more practice time because we had the trip to Puerto Rico,” said Kyle rode. “I feel like we have great chemistry going into our first practice today already which was an advantage for us, for sure. We’ve got a great group, young group too, but really eager to learn, real hard working. It was a great day.”