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LIBERTY CENTER — Now that the calendar has turned to a new year, it’s usually this time goals for said new year are set.

This includes the Liberty Center boys basketball team, led by its quiet leader in Carter Burdue.

Burdue is also a rarity at Liberty Center. He’s a non-football player in a football town.

“You hear a lot about football,” the LC senior said of living and playing in Liberty Center. “The other basketball guys talk a lot about football. You just try to get used to it.”

Burdue fell in love with basketball at a very young age. He also plays on the baseball team at Liberty Center, and is open to continuing either sport at the next level, should the opportunity arise.

“I started playing basketball at about three or four (years old),” he said. “That’s when I picked it up. I fell in love with it and got to play.”

Now as a senior, its his turn to lead a Liberty Center team looking to reverse its fortunes. Two years ago, the Tigers hit rock bottom at 3-20. Last year, the reversal started as the team went 10-14.

Now, Liberty Center is off to a 5-4 start.

“This year has been a lot different than last year.” admitted Burdue. “We didn’t compete in a lot of games. This year we are competing. We played a great game against Ottawa-Glandorf. We almost had them. It’s been really exciting.”

For coach Greg Badenhop, it was easy to see who started the turnaround of the program.

“Carter has played for me for four years,” said the LC coach. “He’s come a long way in his four years. If you go back and watch the film, you’ll see him progress from an athlete when he was younger, to a scorer last year and an all-around basketball player this year. His focus and his effort is there on both ends of the floor. He’s as good as anybody in the area.”

Burdue leads the team in scoring at a 17.9 ppg clip through nine contests, shooting 65-of-126 from the field (51.6 percent), while also pacing the Tiger roster in rebounds (7.0 rpg) with 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals a night.

So far, the most exciting part was winning the Henry County Classic for the first time when the Tigers defeated Napoleon by a 64-60 count.

“We had to come out and win the championship, and that’s what we did,” said Burdue. “We’re Henry County Classic champions now.”

So, what makes Burdue so good?

“For our program in particular,” explains Badenhop, “when you have somebody who can score outside of the offense, and can make plays outside of what we draw up, as a coach that’s the extra icing on the cake that makes you look a little bit better than we have in the past.”

Another thing a leader does well is make those around him better. It’s something Burdue has done with this Liberty Center basketball team.

“His game has elevated to the next level, and his teammates have elevated their game along with his,” said Badenhop. “They talked at the beginning of the year about making this one (this season) different.

“It starts with Carter, but Trent (Murdock), Cam (Krugh) and Aaron (Shafer) down the line, they all wanted the same thing,” added the LC coach. “Carter has elevated his game to the point to the point where everyone thinks they should as well. As a coach, that’s what you are looking for.”

And with that turn of the calendar, the new year’s goals for the Tigers have come into focus.

“It’s been pretty good so far,” Burdue said of the season. “I’m excited, we’re playing pretty good right now. We have a good team. As a team, we’ve talked about getting a district championship. Where we’re at now, if we keep the train going, with the way we’re playing, we can get there.”

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