In a season filled with ups and downs for the Crusaders, players’ performances have also followed the sine wave of output. With starting the season on an immediate high with taking down a top MAC team in Toledo, the Crusaders experienced an immediate low with the injury to Ryan Fazekas.
A thrilling win in the Virgin Islands was immediately followed by tough losses to Nevada and Cincinnati. A road win against High Point was followed by a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas in Little Rock, and on goes the cycle of alternating wins and losses in the Valley.
But with only three games left in the regular season for the Crusaders, there has been one player in particular who has shown himself to be a head above the rest. Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, IL-Whitney Young) proved that the sophomore slump is only a myth for lesser talent, as he has consistently shown his net worth throughout the entire season.
Even with his production being slightly down in MVC play, Freeman-Liberty still ranks in the top 50 nationally in scoring with 19.3 points per game, and in the top 20 nationally in steals per game with 2.2. There hasn’t been a game this season where Javon has scored less than 11 points, along with two instances where he has scored 30 or more points (Nov. 12 @ SIUE, Nov. 25 vs Cincinnati).
Only one double-double has been recorded this season by a Valpo player, and it was Freeman-Liberty accomplishing this feat at SIUE, scoring 30 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Freeman-Liberty is one of two players in the last 30 years to score 19 or more points for seven straight games to start a season, as he joined one of the Crusader greats of Alec Peters in accomplishing this feat.
The great players of all time seem to perform their best when the lights shine the brightest, and in Valpo’s biggest games this season, Freeman-Liberty performed at his best. Three games in the Virgin Islands saw Freeman-Liberty score a total of 75 points. A close loss at Arkansas included a 21 point and seven rebound performance for JFL.
Along with this, the toughest game of the year for the Crusaders in Cedar Falls, Iowa saw Freeman-Liberty go toe-to-toe with AJ Green and Northern Iowa, and he poured in 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds with it.
He elevated his game when the stage was elevated, which is something that has to be promising for the Brown and Gold as we approach Arch Madness.
As we inch closer to Arch Madness in St. Louis next week, the Valparaiso Crusaders seem to have turned a corner, with much of the progress coming from the elevated play from Freeman-Liberty. His impact on the court and contributions to team chemistry has taken a team without direction from last season’s campaign, to bringing a bond to a team with talent and intangibles.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Torch.