Liberty’s Caleb Homesley started in coach’s doghouse


SportsPulse: Liberty joined Murray State and Oregon as the third No. 12 to knock out a No. 5. USA TODAY’s Scott Gleeson thinks Liberty isn’t done either.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The hero for the Liberty Flames in a 80-76 upset of Mississippi State on Friday first had to crawl out of his coach’s doghouse.

Caleb Homesley led 12th-seeded Liberty past fifth-seeded Mississippi State and to the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory with a career-high 30 points. Which was remarkable not only because Homesley was averaging 12 points per game this season before the first-round matchup at the SAP Center, but also because of what Liberty coach Richie McKay recalled about the 6-foot-6 redshirt junior.

Soon after Homesley arrived on campus in 2015, it turns out, McKay suggested Homesley might be better off somewhere else.

Recalled McKay, “I told him, ‘Division II isn’t a bad level. I’ve played Division II, and if you don’t work harder than you’re working, you’re going to end up at a different level, because your talent isn’t living up to your ability.’”

Sitting in Liberty’s locker room after the win over Mississippi State, Homesley recalled McKay’s talk of Division II with a grin. He noted he had torn ligaments in his knee the year before he enrolled at Liberty.

“I was a little out of shape and I wasn’t really used to the college practices yet,’’ said Homesley. “I was lazy and didn’t want to do the hard things, so he told me straight up that I probably needed to go to D-2. So it motivated me, though, and he does a good job of motivating his players.’’

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Homesley has gone from part-time starter to hero Friday, scoring 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-11 from 3-point range.

Not bad for a guy whose coach once suggested Division II might be in his future.

“And he flipped the script,’’ McKay said. “He’s been a part-time starter for us, and now I think he’s a pro.’’

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11.


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