Liberty Lions Squad Up!

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Monday, January 8th, 2018

For those of you who, for whatever reason, don’t know much about the Liberty Lions, you should take notice ASAP Rocky!  Maybe it’s because they are in about as far West as you can get in Peoria, Arizona.  Maybe it’s because, up until this point, they have never had a high-major prospect come through their program.  Maybe it’s because they go about their business and just keep it pushing. But you might want to come around and take a look at them.  They have become a fun thing to watch on the basketball court.

If you are someone who wants to have your interest peeked by looking at their record on Max Preps, you will be selling yourself short.  Their 10-9 record will not allow you a fair assessment of how good this team is.  They have just played their first game with their full roster for the first time in the last week.  Their 6-foot-1 star junior guard Josh Ursery was unavailable the first half of the season due to transfer rules.  They just got back their 6-foot-5 senior athletic wing Quentin Guliford (Montana State commit) due to injury.  Their best 3-point shooter, 6-foot-5 senior forward Connor Ray, was out for the first 6 games of the year.  Ray is statistically the best 3-point shooter in the state with (72) 3-pointers made on the season thus far, while shooting over 40% from deep.  I repeat… he missed the first 6 games of the season!

Their one constant in their line-up all season has been the play of their 5-foot-10 junior point guard Jacob Edahl.  Their leader and captain.

Ask Liberty head coach Mark Wood about Edahl, and it is very apparent that he is a coach’s favorite.

“A point guard in it’s purest form,” said Wood.  Though he is undersized, he is fearless.  He is liable to drop a dime off to a teammate just as much as he is to pull from deep on you.  He is also a pressing defender on opposing guards.

To understand the success of this team you should understand a little bit about their coach.  Mark Wood, as a player, played 4 years in the late 80’s to early 90’s at Deer Valley High School, and while his college career lasted about as long as an Lil Uzi Vert song, his impact on the game has withstood the test of time.  While his coaching career started out with some early success at Cactus High School, he is the only head coach the Liberty program has ever known.  Coach Wood has been at the school for it’s entire 12-year existence.

In the 2016-17 season, the Lions eked into the playoffs as a #15 seed, but knocked off #2 seeded Arcadia to eventually reach the 5A Final Four.

Now knowing this, you have to know that there are some high expectations this season on the Liberty campus.  Especially after getting a transfer like Josh Ursery, a solidified Division-I prospect.  He and Guliford have just played their second game together, as they try to find their footing on the floor to make one of the more talented high school tandem’s in the state.

However, Coach Wood says, “while we have every intention of playing on February 28th (in the Championship game), we don’t like to have any destination points.  We really just want to be the toughest team we can be, play together and be selfless.  Play with courage and effort and trust that all that will get them there.  Anything after that, we are OK with the outcome.”

Spoken like not just a true coach of the game, but one of life.

The Lions play with flow.  They are not your half-court, take-the-air-out-of-the-ball team that a lot of programs in the state are.  They shoot a ton of 3’s and are aggressive.  They will randomly come out in full-court pressure and trap on defense to cause turnovers to get out and run.

Ursery, Edahl and Ray are all snipers from deep and Guliford adds elite-type athleticism to the Lions to go with Ursery’s superb athleticism.

Coach Wood is just fine with this.  He wants his guys to play with confidence, to play free and loose.  The only way he will detour from this system is if he see’s selfishness, but he has complete faith in his boys to not go down that road.  He has tried “conventional basketball” in the past but decided “it was not bringing us the wins, so we tried something different.”

Though he has been doing this for such a long time, he has not allowed that to stop him from evolving into a style of play that better fits the roster he currently has.

With (7) games to go on the schedule, they will look to get ready as a team to prepare themselves for a deep playoff run.  ArizonaPreps.com will be on hand the whole way.

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