Marcus Liberty has seen a ’phew and believes DePaul’s Javon Freeman-Liberty can make it
“You don’t have to be what I was [to get to the NBA],” said Liberty, once the No. 1 recruit in the land.
Once upon a time, Marcus Liberty could have been the successor to Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings.
Or even to Teddy Grubbs, who’d preceded him at King.
“I would’ve loved to go to DePaul,” Liberty, 53, said Wednesday.
But then-King coach Landon “Sonny” Cox, a Public League kingpin, didn’t like the idea. There were “bad vibes” with the Blue Demons having at least something to do, according to Liberty, with Grubbs, who’d gone to Lincoln Park as one of the top recruits in the country.
Liberty — the No. 1 high schooler in the land in 1987 — went to Illinois instead. DePaul’s slow slide from its Public League-fueled rock-star days of the early 1980s continued.
But now? There’s no bigger Blue Demons fan than Liberty, who watches every game from Sarasota, Florida, where he lives and operates the Liberty Edge Basketball AAU program.
“Whatever way they come on, I’m getting it,” he said. “If I don’t already get it, I’m making sure I subscribe to it. I’m all in. I love it.”
Missing the show sister Deanna Liberty’s son is putting on simply isn’t an option.
A 6-4 senior guard, Javon Freeman-Liberty is near the top of the Big East in scoring at over 21 points per game, is one of the most productive inch-for-inch rebounders in the land and plays so many minutes he might as well never leave the court. Though he missed their 68-67 loss to Xavier on Wednesday with a groin injury, he leads the Blue Demons in points and assists, is their primary ball handler and has often been their only consistently productive three-point shooter — and that’s just a taste of what he means to them.
“How about that kid?” his uncle said.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t a national name coming out of Whitney Young — though, like his uncle, he was a state champion as a junior and a runner-up as a senior — and who started his college career at Valparaiso.
Liberty had an altogether different experience as a 6-8 megastar coming from King. He spent a Prop 48 freshman season unable to practice with the Illini, then was told by late Illini legend Lou Henson that his only reliable path onto the court as a sophomore would be as a frontcourt backup to Kenny Battle and Lowell Hamilton. Liberty saw himself — crystal clearly — as a guard. Playing out of position, as he somewhat lamented then and still does, he never fully bloomed into the college player he expected to be.
The four-year NBA career that followed was an accomplishment but not a coronation.
It’s part of why Liberty looks at his nephew and marvels. Freeman-Liberty was solid as a freshman at Valparaiso but took a giant leap as a sophomore. He was good at DePaul in his first season there but has become so much better across the board as a senior, it’s almost startling.
“I’d definitely say he has a lot of potential to make it [to the NBA],” Liberty said. “It’s kind of crazy, but I believe it now. You don’t have to be what I was. There’s more than one way to get there.”
There is no more aggrieved species than the human college basketball fan. A substantial segment of Illinois’ fan base raises this to an art form on Twitter, but it’s far from alone. In Big Ten country, one can’t turn around without bumping into fans who are convinced conference referee Bo Boroski has it in for their team. Yes, you, Michigan State and Iowa, just to name two.
There has always been a Boroski through the years in the Big Ten. Ask Indiana fans about former ref Ted Valentine, then be sure to cover your ears. Perhaps Courtney Green has the (ahem) potential to be one of these guys.
Green was so bad Tuesday in Wisconsin’s 82-76 win at Northwestern, he managed to turn both sides against him. It was hard to believe when Green failed to call a foul as — right in front of him — Badgers star Johnny Davis was hammered in the face and bloodied. And it was appalling near the end when Green called a foul on the Wildcats’ Chase Audige on a squeaky-clean play that should’ve led to an uncontested basket and made it a two-point game with at least 20 seconds left to play.
You’ve long suspected it, and you were right: The refs hate your school.
• My latest college basketball AP Top 25 ballot, submitted just before Monday’s Illinois-Purdue classic: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Arizona, 3. Auburn, 4. Duke, 5. Baylor, 6. Kansas, 7. Purdue, 8. UCLA, 9. Houston, 10. Wisconsin, 11. Kentucky, 12. Illinois, 13. LSU, 14. Iowa State, 15. Texas Tech, 16. Villanova, 17. Xavier, 18. Michigan State, 19. USC, 20. Texas, 21. Ohio State, 22. Loyola, 23. Providence, 24. San Diego State, 25. Indiana.
• Nice to see Wednesday’s news that Malcolm Hill earned a two-way contract with the Bulls. After toiling in Germany, Russia, Israel and other leagues to get here, Hill has made it further than I thought he would when he was scoring all those points on run-of-the-mill-at-best teams at Illinois.
• NFL wild-card mismatches vs. College Football Playoff semifinal mismatches:
• NFL divisional-round picks: Titans 26, Bengals 20; Packers 24, 49ers 20; Rams 27, Buccaneers 23; Bills 30, Chiefs 24 (OT).
Joe Burrow gets picked off on the Bengals’ last-gasp drive. Aaron Rodgers survives a subpar showing. Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes go down back-to-back on Sunday.
Look, don’t blame the messenger.
And print it.