First-year Liberty boys basketball coach Omar Parker wasn’t willing to waste a second. The team kicked off the season by practicing at midnight Nov. 12, then twice more later in the day.
“We wanted to attack this thing the very first second that we could,” Parker said. “By the end of Monday we had three good, hard, short practices. By Tuesday our team could feel like maybe we were ahead of our competition.”
Parker’s top priority is to establish a culture for the program and turn the expectations around. The Patriots haven’t been bad, the team went 9-11 last season, but it hasn’t been among the league leaders often either. The team has also never been to state.
“We have to build an excitement around here,” Parker said. “The team has really embraced that mindset and they’ve embraced a work ethic that has even surprised me a little bit.”
The team’s top returner is senior Tynann Gilmore. Gilmore led the team in scoring and was a second team all-league player last season.
“If he’s not the best returning player in the KingCo, he’s got to be one of the best,” Parker said of Gilmore.
Another talented returner is 6-foot-5 senior Matt Campbell. Parker said Campbell’s ability to run the floor well means the team can easily play an aggressive fast style.
Other key players are Chase Puglisi, Tim Phan and Di Wang. Puglisi’s versatility – he has good size at 6-foot-4 but can also shoot from outside – will help the team immensely.
“The versatility of Chase and the committee of wing players makes us dangerous,” Parker said.
One weakness at this point is health. Robbie Thomas and Kellen Birdsall are both dealing with injuries.
Dayton Mackay and Dalton O’Brien will step in to take some of the load off at the wing position, while Thomas and Birdsall are injured. Parker said the team is evaluating both players’ injuries week to week.
Parker played and coached at Mercer Island High School. Most recently, he was the director of player development at the University of Missouri.