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Liberty fields its first varsity boy’s basketball team

A year of learning awaits the Bolts
Stu Ordman, Head Varsity Boys Basketball Coach at Liberty High School in North Liberty (photo by Chris Umscheid).

NORTH LIBERTY– A year ago, a group of Iowa City West High freshmen donned the black, silver and purple of, then still under construction, Liberty High to form the fledgling school’s first basketball team. Under the direction and guidance of Stan Hughes, Coach for the Waterloo-based Cedar Valley Court Kings minor league professional basketball team, the squad won their opener against City High’s Red Team, 42-39, with Ben Houselog scoring the team’s and the program’s first basket.
Now, Liberty High School is open and the first varsity teams are rolling out, including a varsity boys basketball team.
Principal and interim Athletic Director Scott Kibby tapped veteran coach Stu Ordman to lead the program. Ordman coached both boys and girls at several levels in Kansas from 1980-1997 where he took the Shawnee Mission NW boys to the Kansas State Tournament in 1996 (only the third time in the school’s history), where they made it to the final four. Ordman took the Leavenworth girls to consecutive Class 6A Championships in 1988 and 1989.
Ordman left Kansas for a language arts/physical education teaching position at Cedar Rapids Jefferson, where he led the varsity boys from 1998-2014 with a 233-158 record. Ordman left the J-Hawks for Iowa City Regina in 2014 and racked up a 49-24 record in three seasons. Under Ordman, the Regals earned two River Valley Conference (RVC) Southern Conference Championships and two District Championships (2014-2015, 2015-2016). Also, in his debut year, Ordman’s Regals won a Sub-state Championship and were the Class 2A State Runner-Up.
Overall, Ordman has a 510-343 record.
Two factors prompted Ordman to leave the Regals for the Bolts.
The opportunity to create a program, basically from scratch was one factor, Scott Kibby is the other. You could say, Kibby was calling an old friend home.
“My family and I moved to Iowa City in the fall of 1997 when I started working at Jefferson. Scott was my freshman coach (on the Jefferson staff). He’s an outstanding math teacher, an outstanding coach. He then became the Athletic Director at Jefferson, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for him,” Ordman reflected.
When the Iowa City Community School District first proposed building a new high school, Ordman walked into Kibby’s office.
“Wouldn’t it be neat to start a brand new school?” Ordman asked him, with absolutely no way of knowing Kibby would be named Principal of the new school, Liberty High. “It was tough to leave Regina. They have tremendous, terrific families, and a lot of talent, but I thought my two associate coaches would do a great job if they were given a chance, and I like a challenge. So, this is a challenge, to start something from scratch.”
While some of the Bolts have Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and grade school/junior high playing time, as well as their freshman season to build upon, but, Ordman quickly points out, “That’s a lot different than playing varsity.”
Ordman worked with the student athletes over the summer in the gym and playing in unofficial games and tournaments, including against some Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) teams. Liberty is unaffiliated with any athletic conference this season and will join the MVC in the 2018-2019 school year.
“What I have appreciated is that the kids who came in the summer have a good work ethic, they play unselfishly, and they’re open to being coached pretty hard. Our challenge will be that we have a learning curve, but (also) we have a race against time. We’re going to play varsity competition, so the freshmen and sophomores need to come to practice with championship spirit, championship effort, championship hustle and also, a real desire to learn.”
Ordman said he was optimistic the Lightning would achieve those goals.
As an unaffiliated program, Liberty’s schedule consists of WaMaC, MVC and other conference schools, both large and small. The Bolts are eligible to compete in the post season for a shot at the State Tournament and a potential championship.
Competing against such a mix of teams has its own set of challenges for Ordman, his staff and the players. “It’s going to be tough to scout,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe that will keep me from over-scouting an opponent, and keep focused on our team. And, there’s a lot of travel too.” With so much bus time ahead of them, Ordman said his young squad would have to grow up fast. “They’ll have to be organized with their family obligations, spiritual obligations and academics. They’ll have to learn how to travel, how to make good decisions when you come back from traveling, getting your tail up to school the next day.” He quickly added, “I believe these young men are able to do that.”
After spending the summer with the Bolts, and watching several of them balance out basketball with other athletic commitments. Ordman said he was greatly encouraged by the spirit of cooperation between the Liberty coaches. Jeff Gordon (Head Football Coach) and Bruce Davis (Assistant Football Coach) are on his staff as assistants, and he has known of Tom Cronk (Head Varsity Baseball Coach) for years.
“Everybody is pretty collegial,” Ordman said.
“Our focus,” Ordman said, “will be on having a championship spirit and developing leadership and team play. I’m going to need to concentrate on effort and improvement. I can see where, against certain teams, we might not have more points at the end, but we might’ve played a better game than another game where we won.” While Ordman, his staff and his players will hate to lose, and will celebrate wins, “The idea is to be successful. Did we get better? Did we accomplish our goals? What did we learn from this contest? What are we getting out of each and every practice?”
The inaugural varsity squad may contain some juniors and seniors (the roster had not been set as-of this interview on the first official day of practice), but will assuredly be heavy on sophomores and freshmen.
“We have very few juniors and seniors in the building,” Ordman noted on a preseason preview. “We will be very young, but the boys showed improvement over the summer. I am looking forward to working with these young men.” Ordman wrote.
The season opened with a Jamboree at Cedar Rapids Kennedy on Monday, Nov. 20, with the first home game set for Friday, Dec. 1, as Waterloo West visits for a 7:30 p.m. varsity tip-off.