On Wednesday, Liberty commits Zach Cleveland and Ben Southerland made it official as they signed their National Letter of Intent to play for Ritchie McKay and the Flames. The pair of 6’7″ forwards committed to Liberty during the offseason and can enroll this coming summer.
“As our program has continued to experience growth, it is reflected in recruiting and being able to recruit not just really good basketball players but terrific people from wonderful families,” McKay said in a school release. “This is certainly the case with our 2022 class and we are thrilled to welcome them and their families to campus next year.”
Cleveland signed with Liberty over offers from Western Carolina, Belmont, Illinois State, Southeast Missouri State, and SIUE. The class of 2022 prospect averaged 21.0 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game during his junior season at Normal Community School in Normal, Illinois. During his sophomore season, Cleveland averaged 15.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 46.6% from the field. His performance helped him be named first-team Pantagraph All-Area boys team while he helped his school finish 23-11.
Cleveland started each of the past two years for the Ironmen and is a two-time all-Big 12 Conference selection. He become the first player in 21 years for NCHS head coach Dave Witzig to average a double-double during his sophomore season. He has now accomplished that feat each of the past two years.
Zach isn’t the first person in his family to play college basketball. His mother, Marla (Maupim) was a star for Illinois State in the 80s with 1,323 career points and later played professionally overseas. His father, Mark, played at Hanover College in Indiana. His sister, Grace, plays for Purdue volleyball where she has been named an all-american each of the past two years.
“Zach is a versatile forward that really embodies the word ‘positionless’,” said McKay. “He has an outstanding skill set, is a terrific athlete, an unbelievable teammate and really has a chance to impact a program right away. He comes from a great family and was well-coached by Dave Witzig and Justin Rhymes.”
Southerland, who originally committed to the College of Charleston and former Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey, signed with the Flames on Wednesday. The 6’7″ forward is from Cincinnati, Ohio where he attends Sycamore High School, the same high school as former Liberty walk-on and current member of the Flames’ coaching staff Zach Farquhar.
He is rated as a three-star prospect according to 247Sports with over a dozen Division I offers including Illinois State, Marshall, Tulsa, Iona, Belmont, Wright State, Akron, Stetson, Ohio, Toledo, College of Charleston, Winthrop, and Miami (OH). He took an official visit to Liberty at the end of July and also took official visits to Belmont and Charleston.
As a junior last season, Southerland averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals per game. He was named a first-team all-conference and all-district selection. He holds the record at Sycamore for most three pointers in a season and the record for most points in a game (41).
“Ben Southerland was a gift and felt called to become part of our family,” said McKay. “It just goes to show that the young men we have in our program and that we continue to be able to attract talent that will significantly impact the future of our program. Ben is an excellent shooter but has a variety of attributes that will give him a chance to play right away.”
— Liberty Men’s Basketball (@LibertyMBB_) November 10, 2021