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Boys hoops preview: Liberty

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M-Men need to grow up in a hurry

By Mike Forster

Warning:  heavy lifting ahead.

The Liberty basketball program has thrived over the past half-decade.

Led by the likes of Julian Poindexter, Chris Harmon, Boo Payne and Anthony Reynolds, the Minutemen have been at or near the top of the Seminole District for quite a while.

This year may be different.  First, the Seminole is loaded:  there are no weak sisters.

Second, the Minutemen are a young team which will have to contend with some veteran-laden crews.

That's not to say that Liberty won't bring a lot to the party.  It will be a matter of the team growing into its potential before the post-season arrives.

Until that happens, look for Darius McCoy to drive the team.  "It starts with him," said Liberty Head Coach Jeff Monroe, of the sleek senior. "He'll be our primary scorer."

Monroe's words have proven prescient.  In Liberty's first three contests, McCoy has poured in an average of nearly 30 points per game.

Helping to feed the scoring machine will be Jordan Monroe at point guard.  A lot will be asked of the senior, a vocal and demonstrative leader, in addition to being a smooth ball handler.  "He's up for the task," said Monroe, who should know­—the point guard is also his son.

Another senior who is expected to shine is three-sport jock Cory Witt.  "We'll need a big year from him," noted Monroe of the power forward.  A tough-as-nails linebacker in the fall, look for Witt to mix it up in the paint.  He'll have to as this is, by far, the smallest team Monroe has led in his seven years at the Liberty helm.

At shooting guard, you're likely to find Michael Wright.  In addition to a fine outside shot, Wright also has a propensity to move with vigor through the gut.

Another senior who will add a strong inside presence is D.J. Jones.  At 6'2", Jones isn't going to dwarf any of his adversaries.  Still, his hustle and presence should be a big asset to the Minutemen.

The biggest guy on the squad is Jamaal Preston, who stands 6' 4".  The good news is that Preston is only a sophomore, so there is plenty of opportunity for him to grow, both in terms of knowing the game and in the height department.  In the meantime, Preston will see a lot of time.

Monroe is carrying a total of 14 players, so there is ample opportunity for someone or some group to fill any voids.

Candidates to do so include  Rucker Shipp, 6' 2" and with long arms.  He's a good student of the game and athletic.  Kendrick Thompson, a sophomore, can step in at point or at the two-spot, bringing a crisp outside shot.

Speaking of outside shots, junior Ryan Hensley may have the smoothest shot of the lot.  "He's one of the more athletic players on an athletic team," assessed Monroe.

Chris Sharrett, a 6' 3" sophomore, can shoot from anywhere on the court:  always a positive asset.

"We're still feeling our way through," noted Monroe.  "We need as much practice as we can get."

Look for this crew to strive to play with strength and toughness, rather than with the finesse of earlier M-Men editions.

While Liberty has a well-earned legacy of excellence, Monroe knows that doesn't always work in a team's favor.  "(Every foe) will give us their best shot," noted the coach.

Indeed, they will.