By Jon Manson
College Sports Journal
LYNCHBURG, VA. — For Liberty, the Flames wave goodbye to one of the best players in their history in Jesse Sanders. As Liberty tries to reclaim a spot as the Big South men's basketball champions, Jon Manson breaks down the team and previews the Flames' 2012 outlook.
Who's gone? Who's back? Who's new?
Jesse Sanders finished his Liberty career 14th in points, 1st in assists, and 4th in rebounds. Most notably, he is the only Division 1 basketball player to record a triple double in each of his 4 seasons on the hardwood. Last season Jesse averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. He led the team in scoring, assists, rebounds, minutes, and free throws. Although what will be missed most on the court will be his heart.
David Minaya led the team last year in points per game at 12.6. He started 28 games and averaged 31 minutes per game.
Chene Phillips was Jesse Sanders' back up most of the season as he played 10 minutes per game. His averages: 1.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.27 assists per game. He has transferred to Division 2 Wayne State.
Stephen Baird leaves after 2 dissapointing seasons. He was highly recruited coming out of high school, and had offers from Colorado State, Kentucky, Marquette, Penn State, Texas A&M, and Utah. Last season he averaged 2.5 points and 1.1 rebounds per game in 16 games.
#33 John Caleb Sanders Junior 6-0 180 Sugar Land, TX
JC is coming off his sophomore campaign where he averaged 11.6 points per game. This was a large increase from his freshman season when he averaged just 3.9 points per game. JC is known for his 3-point shot as he made 61 3-pointers last season at 36.3%. His weak link has been his defensive play. He will fight for the starting shooting guard spot.
#24 Antwan Burrus Senior 6-6 220 Winterville, NC
'Twan enters his Senior season as the team leader. He is coming off career highs in scoring (11.2) and rebounding (6.3). He has played much of his career undersized at the Center position, but hopes to log extensive minutes this season at his more natural position of power forward. He shot an impressive (for a big) 72% from the free-throw line. He should start, where is the question – the 4 or the 5?
#22 Tavares Speaks Senior 6-4 185 Raleigh, NC
Trap Speaks is coming off his first season at Liberty where he averaged 10.2 points per game and started 27 games. Speaks struggled from the 3-point line where he shot a measly 21%. Undoubtedly, he has worked in the off-season to improve that. He is not a bad shooter as he was second on the team last year in free throw percentage (78%) and shot 47% on 2-pointers. Speaks looks to reclaim his starting spot on the wing.
#21 Joel Vander Pol R-Junior 6-10 230 Fort Myers, FL
During the off-season Joel had 2 back surgeries, but hopes to be full speed by the start of the season. He has been consistently hampered by injuries throughout his career, but you cannot teach size. Joel's averages last season: 4.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 0.67 blocks. He shot 56% from the field and 59% from the free throw line. Joel will compete for the starting spot in the middle.
#12 Tomasz Gielo Sophomore 6-9 220 Szczecin, Poland
Tomasz saw playing time in 21 games last season after suffering an early season arm injury. He showed flashes of being a solid contributor with his shooting touch. He shot 37.5% from 3, 52% from the field, and 83% from the free throw line. His minutes should increase this season and hopefully so will his production. Gielo spent much of his summer playing for the Polish National Team in the FIBA U20 European Championships where he averaged 13.1 points and 7.4 rebounds on 62% field goal shooting. He also shot 47% from 3. Gielo will contend for the starting spot at the big forward.
#11 Andrew Smith Sophomore 6-9 220 Pompano Beach, FL
The Highlands Christian Academy standout saw limited playing time last season in 22 games. When he did play, he showed glimpses of his athletic ability with jaw-dropping dunks on several occasions. He will be fighting for playing time again this season as the wing/big forward position is very crowded.
#42 Sommy Ogukwe R-Sophomore 6-7 230 Abuja Nigeria
Sommy is coming off his redshirt season a year ago as he suffered a knee injury prior to the season. During the 2010-11 season, he saw playing time in 30 games while recording 31 points, 60 rebounds, and 22 blocked shots. He will factor in the mix for playing time in the post.
#2 Kelly Assinesi Sophomore 6-0 170 Greenville, SC
Assinesi saw time in 24 games primarily as a back-up point guard. He logged 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 turnovers. As the season progressed, he supplanted Chene Phillips as the team's back-up point guard. He will fight several newcomers to hang on to that spot.
#15 Ethan Layer Sophomore 6-1 160 Forest, VA
The coach's son, Layer saw playing time in 30 games. He was primarily used as a three point specialist as he shot 0.28 three pointers for every minute he was on the court, easily the highest on the team. He looks to continue to battle for playing time as a reserve guard.
#10 Chad Donley Junior 6-2 175 Baker, FL
Donley is a JUCO transfer from Northwest Florida State College; he comes to Liberty with 2 years of eligibility remaining. Last season he averaged 6.9 points per game while shooting 44% from the field, 41% from 3, and 94% from the free throw line. Bottom line, he is a shooter. He will compete for the starting shooting guard position this season, and should see plenty of time on the court.
#1 Davon Marshall Junior 5-11 170 Niagara Falls, NY PG
After walking on at Monroe College, Davon's hard work has earned him a Division 1 scholarship. Originally signed as a combo guard, he will likely spend most, if not all, of his time at point. Last season he averaged 15.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game. His shooting numbers were incredible: 47% from the field, 46% from 3, and 86% from the line. Davon led Monroe College to a 5th place finish in the National JUCO tournament. Marshall is the early favorite to be the starting point guard.
#13 Larry Taylor Freshman 6-1 170 Englewood, FL
Taylor (North Port High School) comes in as the only true point guard of the class. His senior season he averaged 23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals on 47% shooting. He has been described as a "flashy player who will be a crowd favorite." From reading about this kid online, he sounds similar to Jesse Sanders. Those are huge shoes to fill though. Expect Taylor to compete for time as the back-up point guard.
#5 Wesley Alcegaire Freshman 6-5 185 Miami, FL
Alcegaire comes to Liberty from Archbishop Curley High School in Miami, Florida. Last season, he led them to a 27-3 record while averaging 28.1 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Wes comes into a program with plenty of bodies on the wing. He will definitely have to earn his keep to see any significant playing time.
#32 JR Coronado Junior 6-8 245 Caracas, Venezuela
Alex McLean anyone? With 2 years of eligibility remaining, Coronado comes to Liberty ready to contribute. During his first season of JUCO ball, JR averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds per game. If he can get anywhere near that sort of production for Liberty this season, that will be a huge boost to the program's interior play. Coronado will compete with several returnees for starter at center. Regardless, he will get a chance to prove what he can do on the court.
#0 Jarred Jourdan Sophomore 6-5 215 Oakland, CA
A late JUCO transfer, Jarred Jourdan comes to the east coast to show what he can do. Unlike the other JUCO transfers, Jourdan will have 3 years of eligibility remaining. Last season he led his team with 16 points a game. He turned down a scholarship offer from Mercer citing the fact that he did not want to uproot his family (girlfriend, daughter, and mother). Jourdan will fight for playing time on the wing.
#3 Casey Roberts Junior 6-3 190 LaVale, MD
The final newcomer is walk-on Casey Roberts who will have two years of eligibility remaining. Roberts spent his past 2 years playing for Allegany College where he averaged 17 points per game as a sophomore. Roberts also had a very successful high school career at Allegany High School. Just because he is a walk-on does not mean he has no chance at playing time. Expect for Roberts to fight for time at the shooting guard and wing positions.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG – Davon Marshall
SG – John Caleb Sanders
SF – Tavares Speaks
PF – Antwan Burrus
C – JR Coronadody for some basketball!