Posted: Friday, 09 November 2012 12:55PM

Liberty boys basketball looks to defend district title

Springfield, Mo. (  -- The expectations that MV/BT Liberty head boys basketball coach Rob Brown has for his team are simple.

“We are defending district champions with a great deal of experience and ability returning, I think anything less than repeating will be a disappointment,” Brown said.

The Eagles return three starters from that 17-13 district championship team with football star Jaelon Acklin leading the way.

Acklin, who is the quarterback of the football team, averaged 17.3 points per game last year to go with 5.3 boards. James Denton, a 5-foot-10 junior also averaged in double figures at 11.3 points per game and was Second-Team All-Conference. Adam Niehaus, also a junior, is the other returning starter.

Senior Dakota Sharp along with juniors Hunter Barnes and Austin Smotherman are returning lettermen for the team. Tad Zitter, a senior, will be back on the court after missing all of last season with knee surgery.

Six-foot-five junior Zane Cornman will bring some size to the team and is a presence in the middle blocking shots. Luke Daniels, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who is the younger brother of Drury’s Derek Daniels, will also be a new face to watch this year.

Jansen Acklin, the younger brother of Jaelon, will be a three-point threat in his sophomore season, while fellow sophomore Bryan Porter will also be competing to crack the starting five. Senior Daniel French will return to the team and junior Tyler Hedden will provide outside shooting.

The offense is potent at Liberty, but Brown will work to see improvement on the defensive end of the court.

“Our top off-season and pre-season priority is improvement in our team defense,” Brown said. “I believe we can get points, we are just focused on our rotations, communication and pressure on defense.”

Most of the Liberty basketball team also played football, so switching gears from the gridiron to the basketball court will be a key as the Eagles have a tough early schedule.

“The first month of our schedule is pretty brutal,” Brown said. “We play Rogersville, Strafford, Alton, Eminence, West Plains, Licking and the Thayer tournament before Christmas. (They are) great early tests; all of them.”

MV/BT Liberty will open the season on Nov. 23 against Rogersville.

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