Liberty’s Milos Knezevic knows his school isn’t thought of as a basketball power.
He knows Liberty won’t be given the respect that Cheyenne, Bishop Gorman and Mojave get. He knows fans will expect more out of Southeast League rivals Silverado and Foothill than the Patriots.
And Knezevic and his teammates are out to prove those fans wrong.
The Patriots went 21-9 last season and earned the Southeast League’s top playoff seed. Now they’re out to build off that success.
“We’ve just got to carry our momentum from last year,” said Knezevic, one of three returning starters for Liberty. “We feel we have unfinished business and a lot of teams are looking down on us. We just want to make a run the best way we can.
“We feel like this is our year.”
Knezevic probably will be the biggest piece of the puzzle for Liberty this season. The 6-foot-8-inch senior forward averaged 14 points and eight rebounds last year. He signed with Bradley this month, becoming the school’s first Division I athlete.
“It’s really important for our school, because it gives other kids a chance to see that all his hard work and dedication have paid off for him,” Liberty coach Pat Welby said of Knezevic’s college scholarship.
Knezevic said he’s received plenty of notice for being the school’s first signee.
“I’ve been getting congratulated by everybody: teachers and coaches and students,” Knezevic said. “They appreciate all my hard work. I’m pretty sure I’ll be known at the high school, and I want to look back and come back and for the school to know me.”
With the college recruiting out of the way, Knezevic is eyeing a big senior season.
“It’s a blessing, and I just want to finish out my senior year the right way,” Knezevic said.
Knezevic must help make up for the loss of graduated all-state power forward Justin King, who averaged 19.5 points and 13.0 rebounds last season.
Welby said it’s especially important for Knezevic to pick up the rebounding slack.
“That’s one of the goals we have for him is to be our leading rebounder,” Welby said. “He’s got some big shoes to fill, but that’s going to be one of our keys this year is how well we can rebound the basketball.”
Knezevic said he did a variety of offseason workouts, including cycling and yoga, to help improve his athleticism.
“I improved on speed, athleticism, and I’m way quicker and definitely smarter than I was,” Knezevic said.
Knezevic should get scoring help from fellow seniors Kenneth and Cameron Peters.
Kenneth Peters was a second-team All-Sunrise Region pick last season, when he averaged 13 points.
“He’s very strong, and he can shoot the ball extremely well and create a shot off the dribble,” Welby said of Kenneth Peters. “We’re going to rely on him to do a lot of good things for us this year.”
Cameron Peters is back to run the point.
“He’s extremely quick and handles the ball really well,” Welby said of his point guard. “He’s tough to guard, especially off the dribble.”
Welby said for the first time, Liberty won’t have a freshman or sophomore on the roster.
“This group, they’ve been together for three or four years,” Welby said. “They really get along on the court and off the court. I think we have really good team chemistry.”