Liberty’s Darius McGhee, Elijah Cuffee, and Ritchie McKay have earned top postseason honors, the league announced Wednesday. McGhee has been named the ASUN Player of the Year while Cuffee earned ASUN Defensive Player of the Year, and McKay was tabbed as the ASUN Coach of the Year. McGhee was also named All-ASUN first-team, and Cuffee named All-ASUN second-team.
This marks just the third time in ASUN Conference history that one school has earned all three of those honors. Liberty joins North Florida who accomplished the feat in 2016 and Mercer who did so in 2014. The ASUN first started naming a Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.
McGhee becomes the third Liberty player to ever win a conference Player of the Year honors at the Division I level, joining Jesse Sanders who was named Big South Player of the Year in 2011 and Caleb Homesley who was named ASUN Player of the Year just one year ago. Homesley and McGhee are the first teammates to win the ASUN Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons since 2005-06 and 2006-07 when Courtney Pigram and Tim Smith of East Tennessee State accomplished the feat.
McGhee currently leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game to go along with 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. McGhee is shooting 46.4% from the field and 38.6% from three. He’s picked his production up to another level over the past couple of weeks as he is averaging 29.0 points per game in his last 4 games, making 27 of 45 from three (60%) during that span. McGhee’s current scoring average of 15.5 per game would be the most in a season by a Liberty player since Seth Curry scored 20.2 points per game during the 2008-09 season.
“When we got Seth Curry and after his first three or four games, I said he’s a pro,” McKay said. “I had seen it enough to know that kid is going to be an NBA player. I told anyone that would listen Joe Harris is an NBA player. I know (Darius McGhee’s) going to be a pro, can he touch that highest level, I don’t know that because he’s 5’8″, but if he does I guarantee you he will be a fan favorite because he’s such a like-able kid. There’s not many guys that can shoot with the range and accuracy that he has. I think he’s in the conversation with that caliber of a shooter.”
Cuffee was the preseason defensive player of the year for the conference and now he earns the nod in the postseason. He’s been the top perimeter defender on the top defensive team in the ASUN over the past two seasons, routinely getting the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top offensive player. Cuffee becomes the first Liberty player to ever be named conference defensive player of the year.
“There’s very few players that I’ve ever witnessed live that can influence the outcome of a game without scoring a point,” McKay said. “I’ve seen some players over the years that have been able to do that. In our conference, and even when we play up a little bit, Elijah Cuffee is usually the best defender on the floor. I’m biased, I know, but to me he’s the best defender in the league and one of the best in the nation.”
McKay helped guide the Flames to a 5th straight 20-win season and 3rd straight ASUN regular season title, including the first outright regular season championship in school history. Liberty will compete this week with hopes of winning a 3rd straight ASUN Tournament title and get back to the NCAA Tournament. This is McKay’s third Coach of the Year conference honor in his eight seasons at Liberty. He was named co-Coach of the Year alongside North Florida’s Matt Driscoll last year. McKay also earned Big South Coach of the Year honors in 2016.
McGhee was joined on the first team by Bellarmine’s Parker Bradshaw and Dylan Penn, Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah, and North Florida’s Carter Hendricksen.
Cuffee was joined on the second team by Jacksonville’s Dontarius James, Lipscomb’s Romeao Ferguson, North Alabama’s Mervin James, and North Florida’s Jose Placer.
Lipscomb’s Romeao Ferguson was also named the ASUN Newcomer of the Year, and Stetson’s Chase Johnston was named ASUN Freshman of the Year.
Joining Johnston on the All-Freshman Team were Kennesaw State’s Chris Youngblood, North Alabama’s Detalian Brown, North Florida’s Jonathan Aybar, and Stetson’s Josh Smith.
Liberty’s Blake Preston was named to the ASUN’s All-Academic team. He was joined by Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah, Bellarmine’s Juston Betz an Ethan Claycomb, FGCU’s Caleb Catto, Lipscomb’s Romeao Ferguson, North Alabama’s Payton Youngblood, and ASUN Scholar-Athlete of the Year Carter Hendricksen.
The Flames return to action Thursday afternoon at 2 pm against Kennesaw State in the ASUN Tournament Quarterfinals from UNF Arena in Jacksonville, Florida in a game that will be televised on ESPN+.