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Green brings in experienced depth to loaded Liberty women's basketball roster

Green brings in experienced depth to loaded Liberty women's basketball roster

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Liberty women’s basketball coach Carey Green relied on a trio of talented freshmen to make significant contributions this past season. He wasn’t hesitant to insert Audrey Clark and Asia Todd into the starting lineup, and point guard Kennedi Williams provided valuable minutes off the bench.

As Green looked to shape the roster during the recruiting period following the abrupt conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign, his goal was to add experienced depth in the backcourt. If he found transfers who could immediately contribute, the three rising sophomores could develop at a natural pace instead of being asked to shoulder too much responsibility too quickly.

That’s exactly what Green found in a pair of high-scoring junior college transfers who are expected to contend for playing time when the team is allowed to return to campus for practice.

Liberty signed three new players in the past month, highlighted by guards Dee Brown and Alyssa Iverson.

Brown and Iverson were the leading scorers at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I and II levels, respectively, and they bring an immediate spark to a lineup that found its scoring rhythm at the end of the season.

Ana Carolina Jesus, a 6-foot-3 forward out of Portugal, was the third new signee.

“Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem,” Green said Tuesday in a phone interview. “If we can go play defense and rebound, I think that will really help us be more successful.”

Liberty reached the 90-point threshold in both of its ASUN Conference Tournament games behind a balanced attack led by guard Emily Lytle, Todd and forward Mya McMillian.

Brown and Iverson certainly should add to that offensive attack.

Brown was the NJCAA Division I leading scorer at 26.6 points per game at Miami Dade College. The 5-foot-9 guard also pulled down 9.1 rebounds per contest and was second nationally in assists at 7.3.

She scored 1,357 points in two seasons at Miami Dade, and Green said her game resembles that of former Liberty great Devon Brown, who is one of only two players in program history to score 2,000 points.

“Dee is a little bit from that same mold — somebody that can go inside-outside, has a good scoring touch and can get points on the free-throw line,” Green said.

Iverson was the NJCAA Division II’s leading scorer this past season at 27 points per game to go along with 4.2 assists and three steals per contest during her only season playing at McHenry County College.

The 5-foot-7 guard began her collegiate career at Northern Iowa and averaged 1.8 points per game while battling concussion-like symptoms during the 2018-19 season.

“Alyssa is a very good combo point guard-two guard,” Green said. “With Ashtyn Baker, we’ve lost her in the last couple of years for a few games with the flu or turned ankle.

“If you remember, it was two seasons ago that she turned her ankle and we lost her for five to eight games. You need to have some depth. We do have Kennedi Williams, who is very talented, coming back, but we needed somebody with some maturity and some experiences.”

Both Brown and Iverson have two seasons of eligibility remaining, and they will contend for playing time on a roster that is filled with depth at all five positions.

The Flames feature three seniors who are expected to start this upcoming season — Lytle, Baker and forward Bridgette Rettstatt — and McMillian, who emerged as a legitimate post presence as the season progressed, will be asked to do more as a junior following the transfer of Keyen Green.

The 6-foot-1 Green transferred to Tennessee following a successful stint at Liberty that included being named the Big South Conference freshman of the year in 2017 and player of the year in 2018. She earned first-team all-ASUN honors this past season after missing the 2018-19 campaign following two surgeries to reconstruct her right ankle.

“We really have high expectations out of [McMillian] to step in and be a solid contributor inside at the post taking over for Keyen Green,” Carey Green said. “There’s times Mya was very efficient, very effective.

“We’re really looking for her to really step in to be really effective and really impact us inside.”

The Flames lost a second player as a graduate transfer when guard Kierra Johnson-Graham announced she is heading to Alabama A&M for her final season of eligibility.

Her departure means Lytle and South Florida transfer Makaela Kestner will be asked to play small forward and occasionally at power forward if the Flames go with more scorers on the floor.

Lytle was second on the team in scoring last season and averaged 25.5 points per game in the ASUN tournament.

“She was so well-focused and so efficient with what she was doing,” Green said of Lytle.

Kestner was one of the top prospects coming out of Liberty High School in Bealeton. She initially verbally committed to North Carolina in September 2016, but backed out and signed with USF after the 2017-18 high school season.

The 5-foot-11 Kestner played one year at USF and sat out this past season under NCAA transfer rules.

“She’s an athlete. She really can run. She was a deep-threat shooter, penetrator, and she should be an excellent, excellent defender,” Green said.

“If she really puts her focus on that, I think she could be one of the better defenders not only on our team but in the whole league.”

The returning faces and the new players will allow Green to mold the identity of the program and set a rotation during preseason practices.

Green ideally wants balance on the offensive end, but the strong perimeter play should help against perennial conference power Florida Gulf Coast and its frantic up-tempo style.

“We definitely need to be able to score points and get up and down the floor with them, because they’re going to dictate their tempo,” Green said.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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