Loyola Hoops working make the most of Tournament Run

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By Lucas Naber

Loyola’s spectacular run in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament may have dropped from the headlines, but the effects of their success will likely be felt at the school for some time.

The most obvious change is the new practice gym Loyola is building for the basketball and volleyball teams. It’s a step that puts Loyola closer to programs known for their sustained success.

Still, the fact that this is a brand new development for Loyola shows how far the basketball team has come as a program.

“Traditionally, Loyola has not been a sports school. Maybe more of a ‘non-traditional’ sports school than anything,” Loyola’s Associate Director of Admissions, Luc McAlpin, said.

When a team makes an unexpected run in the NCAA tournament, their elimination from the competition often leads to a fairly steep decline in national media coverage. Loyola has stayed in the news, however, at least in Chicago.

The biggest announcement was that head coach Porter Moser had his contract renewed through 2026. Whether the school will be able to keep him that long remains to be seen. But Moser has emphasized a winning culture since his opening press conference, where he talked about mirroring the success that Butler, a former Horizon League opponent, saw. Now, with a 121-111 record with Loyola, Moser has established that winning culture.

The clearest path to Loyola as a basketball dynasty is using this year’s run as a springboard on and off the court. The team returns major contributors from last season’s squad, including Cameron Krutwig, Lucas Williamson, Marques Towns, and Clayton Custer.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 17 Div I Men's Championship - Second Round - Loyola v Tennessee
DALLAS, TX – MARCH 17: Loyola-Chicago Ramblers players celebrate winning the NCAA Div I Men’s Championship Second Round basketball game between Loyola-Chicago and Tennessee on March 17, 2018 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The key now will be to build around this core group, which includes two players with three more years of potential playing time in Krutwig and Williamson.

The team has already started this process, with transfer student Aher Uguak ready to play with three more years of eligibility after sitting out the 2017-18 season due to the transfer process.

Uguak originally committed to the University of New Mexico, but transferred prior to this season. Coming out of high school, Uguak averaged 27 points per game, and was viewed as one of the top basketball prospects coming out of Canada.

Loyola also has two hard commitments in this year’s recruiting class: Franklin Agunanne and Cooper Kaifes. Both are ranked outside of 247sports.com’s top 200 recruits, but Loyola has found success with lower-regarded recruits before. Custer, a transfer from Iowa State and large part of the Final Four team, was ranked 148 when he came out in 2014, and Krutwig was ranked 348 last year. The team has had success with this level of prospect before, and seem to be betting on their ability to do so again.

Another development is a rematch next year between Loyola and Nevada, scheduled for Nov. 27. The two teams met in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, with Loyola winning in the final seconds.

Offseason scheduling moves show that Athletic Director Steve Watson is prepared to support Moser and the team in their efforts to build on last year’s success.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure this isn’t a ‘one-off’ run,” Watson said. “The key is investing back into the men’s basketball program to make sure we’re providing resources Porter and his program need to sustain this level of success.”

Watson said the run is about more than basketball. The success of the team, he said,  “will impact not only the [basketball team] but all of our sports at Loyola, the University as a whole, and the city of Chicago.”

That impact should be seen school-wide within the next two years, according to McAlpin, who believes that the Rambler’s success and continued media attention could lead to increased interest in attending the school, as well as more fan attention for the team.

“Over the next two years there will be a spike from it. You know, a junior in high school watches the tournament, sees Loyola Chicago, and decides to look us up.” McAlpin said.

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