Fresh off the program’s best ever season with 29 wins and an NCAA Tournament win, Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay was able to haul in the best signing class since he returned in 2015. The Flames inked three high school seniors on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, and are expected to sign a fourth next week.

“I think it’s given us a little more name recognition,” McKay said of his team’s success last season. “Our brand is a bit more developed, and I feel like the competition for our guys is a lot stiffer. In our first class, Lovell (Cabbil) we beat no one on, and then Georgie (Pacheco-Ortiz) didn’t have a scholarship offer. Slowly but surely – Kyle Rode was a popular recruit, Shiloh Robinson – USF really wanted badly. So, we have had to recruit against more people that are our level and above. I think the success that we’ve had has helped, but we’re also in a different pool searching for those players.”

The Flames signed Drake Dobbs, Jonathan Jackson, and Micaiah Abii. Dobbs is a three-star rated prospect while Jackson is the younger brother of former UNC and current NBA star Justin Jackson. Abii chose the Flames over a dozen other offers. Isiah Warfield, who is expected to sign next week, will become the highest rated prospect to ever sign with the program, as he will pass current true freshman Kyle Rode with that distinction.

“I love the class that we’re able to attract in this year’s signees, but I’ve loved the last few classes,” said McKay. “They’ve all had a critical role in the growth of our program.”

Like many other things including the packline defense, McKay has brought many of Tony Bennett’s philosophies that he has used to build Virginia into a national champion to Lynchburg. At Virginia, McKay said they paid no attention to the rankings of prospects, but were more concerned with the character of the recruits.

“I think that is similar to what we’ve tried to do here,” McKay explained. “You can see that in the kind of young people that Liberty has attracted. That’s why I say it’s really a privilege to coach at Liberty because you can attract a really neat person, as I’m sure  you could at other institutions, but because of our mission we have access to a ‘niche’ if you will. With that being said, you have to have really good players too.”

Dobbs will play point guard while Jackson, Abii, and Warfield can play multiple positions for the Flames. Liberty and McKay have grown more and more towards becoming positionless so most of the pieces are interchangable.

“There is one position on the floor that is different than the rest and that’s point guard,” McKay stated. “Everything else I love mismatching. It’s part of what we try to do and who we try to recruit, but you’re not going to go 100% in recruiting. Some guys will play more than others, not everybody is going to play. You earn your minutes here. I do think we have some good options.”

The 6’1″ Dobbs is from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He was the first commitment in the class as he chose the Flames over offers from Colorado State, North Dakota State, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He led Eden Prairie High School last season with 18.4 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game while shooting 46.2% from the field. He has been ranked by Rivals as a 3-star recruit.

“Drake Dobbs is your quintessential point guard,” said McKay. “He had a great basketball IQ and because of the level of competition that he has played at both the high school level and on the AAU Summer CIrcuit, he comes very well prepared to the college level. He has been fabulously coached by his high school coach, David Flom, and his AAU coach, Al Harris. We are really excited about Drake being a part of our family.”

“When I watched him in the summer, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘We got a really good one,'” McKay said. “I’m not going to compare him to Kyle (Rode) in terms of who they are as players, but that maturity, that confidence, that toughness, I think they are similar in that way.”

Jackson is a 6’4″ guard who committed to Liberty in May after the Flames were one of the first to start recruiting him. Liberty is his only reported offer. He is a standout perimeter shooter and is now playing at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, Kansas.

“I have known Jonathan for years before I even thought of recruiting him because of our recruitment for his brother, Justin,” McKay explained. “I love their family and he is unheralded but is an absolute great get for our program. I really think Jonathan is going to be one of the most mature freshmen that our program has seen.”

Abii is the most recent pledge in the class, committing in late August. The 6’7″ forward from Frisco, Texas attends Liberty High School and chose Liberty over about a dozen offers including Air Force, Drexel, Lipscomb, UMBC, and South Alabama. At his length, he can play most any position on the court and is also comfortable with the ball in his hands.

“Micaiah Abii was someone we identified late but thank goodness we did,” McKay said. “He has an infectious personality, is multi-positioned and really skilled. He has a level of basketball acumen that I think is going to afford him the opportunity to play early.”

Warfield is a 6’5″ combo guard from Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He is a 3-star rated prospect according to 247Sports and chose Liberty over offers from Duquesne, Southern Utah, and Hampton. He averaged 25.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game for Sewickley Academy before transferring to Central Valley for his senior season. His new high school is set to have a signing ceremony next Wednesday where Warfield is expected to sign with the Flames. He committed to Liberty in March following the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win when the Flames defeated Mississippi State in the first round.

After Warfield signs, McKay and the Flames still have one scholarship open for next season. It’s a spot that could be filled by a grad transfer to help balance out the classes.

“All our options are open,” McKay said as the scholarship has opened following the Keegan McDowell transfer. “We didn’t play for that. We have a handle on what works for us. We know what that template is and how we would like to fill it.”

This year’s group of signees will be counted on to play next season as the Flames will be looking to replace the likes of Caleb Homesley, Scottie James, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, and Myo Baxter-Bell.

“The players that we are signing are at least mid-major players that have a chance for more,” said McKay. “What we’ve tried to do is get out and really evaluate early, and make sure the people whom we are recruiting know who we are, what we’re about, and our vision for our program. So far it’s doing ok.”