It has been well documented that Liberty was one of the smallest teams in all of Division I last year. It is no secret. Some of that just happened as the roster was primarily built from the team’s time in the ASUN and some of the taller players on the roster didn’t develop as hoped. But, the lack of size was certainly a problem and hindered the team’s potential last year.

Coach McKay and his staff set out to address that through the portal this year, bringing in three forwards at 6’8″ or 6’9″ to add some experience and size to the team’s frontcourt. The Flames are also bringing in a 6’4″ guard and 6’6″ wing to add size and length to the backcourt, as well.

“It wasn’t (all) about the measurables,” McKay said of adding height to the roster. “I think a lot of it has to do with what beats inside, but we obviously wanted to size up a little bit because we were the smallest team in Division I. That wasn’t intentional. I didn’t know we were going to redshirt Kai Yu or Zander (Yates), who we signed out of the portal last year, didn’t get as much court time as we would have hoped, but no excuses there. I just think we needed to add some depth on the front line and in the backcourt, and I think we’ve done so.”

It still remains to be seen if these pieces being brought in will be enough to push the Flames over the top in competing in Conference USA, but it does certainly appear to be a step in the right direction.


In 2024-25, Liberty will have seven new players on the roster. Additionally, Kai Yu and Curtis Blair redshirted last year and did not see playing time on the roster, so in effect there will be nine new players on the team. That is a lot of turnover in one off-season but such is life in the new age of NIL and the transfer portal.

Having so much turnover will put more of an emphasis on the group of returning players. Colin Porter, Kaden Matheny, and Zach Cleveland all started last year and return. The Flames also welcome back Gabriel McKay, Bryson Spell, and Zander Yates to the roster. This group will have to help bring in the newcomers and their adjustment to the program as it will be a quick ramp up to the start of the season with so much to learn for these new faces.

“The importance of their voice is amplified,” McKay said of the returners. “They’ve got to have an investment in the young guys, guys they are competing with, even guys that are older than them that are new to our program. There’s got to be a sacrificial disposition that warrants growth, connection, community. I think that’s what Liberty is about. I think those men are more than capable, as a matter of fact, I think they are elite in building connection.”


A year ago, Liberty signed and brought in as a true freshman Kai Yu, a 7-foot Chinese national. As we all know, he redshirted this past season as he adjusted to life in America, continuing to learn English, and developed his basketball as he adapted to the speed of the game at the Di level. Now, with his redshirt season behind him, it will be interesting to see if he can find his way onto the court this coming season.

“Kai’s transition has probably been the hardest because of the language barrier,” said McKay. “I think the redshirt year will really benefit him, whether it’s next year or the year after or the year after, I don’t know. I like his progress. It’s just the speed of the game. It’s one thing when you are doing workouts and it’s another thing when you are actually in the competition. However, he is 7-feet tall. He has become a little bit more of a defensive presence and offensive rebounder in practice with a little bit more consistency. I have high hopes for him.”