Minutemen aim for third straight crown

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Reynolds leads hoopsters into season

By Mike Forster

When you have the reigning district player of the year on your roster, you rest easy.

Unless you have big question marks elsewhere.

Liberty seeks to continue its impressive ways under Head Coach Jeff Monroe.

Leading the charge will be Anthony Reynolds, who was the Seminole POY his junior season.

Reynolds was so honored as he led last year’s M-Men through an undefeated run of the Seminole.

That comes on top of a district championship the season before.

Will it be three-peat time for Liberty?

It will if Reynolds gets a lot of help, just as he did last year.

Certainly, the Minutemen seem to be rich in backcourt resources.

Gaitlin Wright teams up with Reynolds to give Liberty one of the most potent tandems in the region.

Wright is one of those fiery, hard-nosed players.  He’s the type that you love, if you’re a fan of the Minutemen.  If you’re not a fan, your feelings toward the senior will be otherwise.

We know how Coach Monroe feels about him.  “He’s one of the hardest workers we’ve got,” he assessed.

Other options at guard include senior Deonte Brown, who would be a starter on most any other area team.

Brown is an excellent shooter and a solid ball handler.

Darius McCoy was the top scorer on last year’s JV team.

Cory Witt is a three-sport jock.  Tough as nails, Witt brings a bit of everything to the backcourt.

Mikey Wright and Jordan Monroe are a pair of juniors who complement each other nicely.

If you’re starting to get a warm and fuzzy feeling about the M-Men, let’s stop that right now.

Sure, they’re strong at guard.

It’s the rest of the positions that have those darn question marks all over them.

In fairness, much of that uncertainty is due to the late run the football team had into the fall.

Seven of Monroe’s guys are also footballers, including some who will be key in the low positions.

“There is some impact from the long football season,” said Monroe.  “There’s different conditioning and some guys get banged up.”

True.  It should be noted, however, that Monroe was spotted at all the Liberty football games, cheering for his guys to advance

The fact that they did may well play into a slow start to the season by the team.

While other teams have been practicing for a couple of weeks now, Liberty (and teams such as Brookville and Harrisonburg) have been going at half-strength on the hardwoods.

That leads to a sense of uncertainty on what you’ve got.

One thing is certain, though.  The days of having a Boo Payne, a Brandon Sparrow or a Dillon Stith in the paint are over.

Rather than having a towering or dominant (or both) big man, Liberty will feature a more pedestrian look.

Don’t confuse lack of height, however, with lack of talent.  Though smaller, the Liberty inside guys bring scads of skill.

Bryan Dudley most closely matches the description of a true center.

At 6’3”, Dudley has arm length that lets him play a couple of inches taller.

He’s obviously worked hard in the weight room, and has the muscle to show for it.

A quiet, low-key guy, Dudley seems content to let his work on the court speak for him.

Jerry Thompson is another player who should feature prominently in the paint.

A defensive lineman of some renown, Thompson has the size and toughness to withstand anything thrown at him.  He should be able to use his muscle to control the boards.

DJ Jones is a new face at Liberty, though not new to the Seminole.  That’s because he transferred his 6’3” frame from Rustburg to Liberty.

We don’t know much about Jones, but we like the toughness and attitude of Rustburg kids.  He’ll probably have to adjust from the Red Devils’ more deliberate style to the more up-tempo approach of Liberty.

A trio of footballers should see some significant time in the post.  Matt Kerr, who took last season off from basketball, comes back for his senior year.

His can-do attitude and ability to seek out rebounds will be most welcome by the Minutemen.

Breon Brawley is strong and quick.  Hunter Taylor is strong, with a nice streak of aggressiveness to him.

Taylor, by the way, is the only sophomore on the team.

Throw another football standout into this stew:  Thomas Clark.

Clark isn’t the biggest guy.  Nor is he the fastest.  But, he sure has a nose for being in the right place at the right time.

Plus, his athleticism gives Monroe a player that can be used just about anywhere.

Call Clark this team’s Swiss Army knife.

No doubt, though, this will be Reynolds’ team.  “His leadership stepped up in football,” noted Monroe.  “And I’m seeing that in basketball.”

Reynolds has the talent and the drive to make things happen on the court.  As such, he has the credibility to be a leader.

As Monroe noted, “If he wants to lead, (the team) will follow him.”

Again, it’s expected that the Minutemen will not roar out of the gate, with so many football players in a transition mode.

The fact that the team opens with a strong non-district schedule should help hasten its development, though it may not do much for its overall record.

“We have a lot of potential,” assessed Coach Monroe.  “I really believe that.  How fast we improve will be key.”

Then, Monroe sat back and added, “After all, it’s not a sprint.  It’s a marathon.”