Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Comings and Goings: Liberty 2016-17

We're back with another installment of Comings and Goings looking at Liberty. Tech on deck (hey, that rhymes!). We promise we'll get to your school if we haven't!

The series so far:

Richmond: Comings and Goings
Virginia: Comings and Goings
George Mason: Comings and Goings
William and Mary: Comings and Goings
James Madison: Comings and Goings


Katelyn Adams: The 6-5 post has graduated. She averaged 7.2 points and a team-high 8.7 boards as a senior.
Sadalia Ellis: The 5-6 guard graduated. She averaged 9.1 points per game and hit double-digits a team-high 16 times. Also led the team in assists with 92.
Catharine Kearney: The 6-6 center has graduated. Put up 9.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year, both second on the team. Finished strong, landing on the Big South All-Tournament team.
Candice Leatherwood: The 5-6 guard started a dozen games as a sophomore and averaged 4.7 points. She has transferred to Sacred Heart in Connecticut.
Ashley Rininger: The 6-4 forward has graduated (and then some). She averaged a team-high 11.2 points last year despite a knee injury that cost her nine games and her starting job. She earned her bachelor's degree (in criminal justice) in just three years, so she leaves the program with a master's in human services counseling. She is currently pursuing a second master's. All with a 4.0 GPA. You hate to see someone like this go.
Jayme Fisher-Davis: The 5-7 guard graduated. She played in every game last year, starting 11, and averaged 5.7 points. She's a 3-point specialist who hits 84 percent of her free throws (and holds the school record for consecutive free throws made with 26).
Brooke Alexander: The 6-foot guard-forward transferred to UT-Arlington. She's a Texas girl, headed homeward. She started 16 games last year but averaged just 3.3 points.
Mikal Johnson: A 5-8 guard, she started a dozen games as a redshirt junior last year and averaged 2.0 points. She has transferred to Mount Saint Mary.
Mickayla Sanders: The 6-foot forward is no longer listed on the Liberty roster. She averaged 7.8 points last year as a junior.


Nene Johnson: A 5-8 junior guard and juco transfer from Eastern Florida State College, where last year she averaged a team-high 14.3 points and 6 assists per game.
Keyen Green: A 6-1 freshman forward from Philadelphia, where she was the first player in Phil-Mont Christian Academy history to compile 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Iva Ilic: A 5-7 freshman guard from Croatia. Played on the U-18 Croatian national team. Career goal is to be a diplomat.
Lela Sellers on signing day
Kaila Ballard: A 5-11 guard-forward from Gatesville, N.C., she  has been practicing with the Flames since January, after completing her high school graduation requirements early. Averaged a double-double for three years in high school.
Kierra Johnson-Graham: A 5-11 freshman guard-forward from Atlanta. Starred on a Tucker High School team that went undefeated her junior year and was state runner-up last year.
Ola Makurat: A 6-1 freshman guard-forward from Poland. Played with the U-18 and U-20 Polish national teams, and her mother had played on the Polish national team. Ola graduated from someplace called Sports Championship School in Warsaw, which certainly sounds impressive.
Lela Sellers: A 6-foot guard-forward from Cedar Rapids, Iowa (where she played her last two years of high school ball, though she still lists Lakeville, Minnesota as her hometown).
Kaitlyn Stovall: A 6-3 post, she sat out last season as a redshirt and will be a freshman this year. Home-schooler from Hopewell who won an AAU national championship with her Boo Williams Summer League team as a high school freshman. Majoring in American Sign Language and Interpreting, which is pretty cool.

Yes, coaches love to chatter about being young no matter who's on the roster, but Carey Green isn't even bending the truth a little when he talks about the youth of this Liberty team, which has a roster of players who have made a total of five career starts.

To be precise, that's two players, Audrey Rettstatt (three starts) and Sheana Vega (two starts). The Lady Flames lost 90.6 percent of their scoring from last season with KK Barbour returning as the leader scorer and rebounder -- that's 65 points and 61 rebounds -- total.

Green's ability to sub big after big into the rotation has been a luxury for years and will be one missing this season.

Personnel changes will mean a smaller, quicker guard-oriented lineup that will seek to keep Liberty at its usual place, atop the Big South. Green foresees a better shooting team than in the past, but doesn't have a good assessment of who will come up big in terms of stat lines for the Lady Flames.

"Success will come by committee," he said, noting transfer Nene Johnson brings much needed experience at the point.

Injuries cloud the picture. Rettstatt is coming off ACL surgery and along with Barbour and Ballard have not been released. All are expected to play a role, but will have to play catchup to get up to speed.

Among the newbies, Sellers comes is as a touted recruit who developed a mid-range game in high school, where she was also a track star.  (We like her because she likes pugs and so do we.) She compared her signing at Liberty with the feeling of opening a pile of presents on Christmas or your birthday, and we look forward to what she will give to the Lady Flames. She turned down offers from Arkansas and Indiana.

If you think Green is worried about his inexperienced roster, banish the thought. He likes the energy and work ethic he's seen thus far and stresses "faith over fear," noting, "I've already fallen in love with this team."

Season opener: Duke, Nov. 11 at the Vines Center

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