With one month to go before the start of the regular season, expectations are high for Loyola’s men’s basketball team. Last season, the Ramblers finished with a 24-14 overall record — their best season since 1985. The team saw its first postseason basketball in 30 years when it stormed through the College Basketball Invitational tournament (CBI), defeating the University of Louisiana-Monroe for the championship title.
Heading into this season, many people are wondering where the team is going to go from there. Will the success of last season last?
Senior guard Jeff White, a sociology major from Peoria, Illinois, understands the team needs to work even harder than last year.
“The biggest thing is showing up every day,” said White. “Holding the team and myself accountable on and off the court [is a challenge].”
As a senior, White puts a lot of the pressure on his own shoulders as he tries to be an example and leader for the younger players.
“Anything bad that happens falls on [the seniors],” White said. “Winning the CBI championship last year [has] people expecting big things from us. It’s time for us to show up.”
Following the graduation of Christian Thomas, one of last season’s starters, Loyola recruited four new players to add to the team’s roster.
However, due to NCAA regulations, one of these new recruits isn’t eligible to play this season. Clayton Cluster, a sophomore transfer from last season’s No. 7 ranked Iowa State University, the reigning Big 12 champion, will only contribute his experience of playing in the national spotlight.
The Ramblers also landed 6-foot-9 forward Maurice Kirby, who was a redshirt first-year at Virginia Tech before he transferred to Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kansas. Loyola guard Earl Peterson and forward Montel James also transferred to Loyola from Coffeyville before the start of last season.
Fifth-year head coach Porter Moser has orchestrated a turnaround in the basketball program. He knows the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) is filled with talent, and every game will be fought hard. Moser said he believes that having so many returning players will give the Ramblers a head start in achieving their goals.
“The strength of this league is the best it’s been in about eight or nine years,” said Moser. “You can’t put a price tag on experience. Our guys got to be in a tournament setting [the CBI]. That experience gave our guys a taste of where we want to go.”
But Moser said success isn’t a guarantee.
“Having guys back alone isn’t enough,” Moser said. “The [returners] have to get better. They have to take their game to the next level.”
The Ramblers open their season Nov. 13 with a visit from the University of Texas-San Antonio, a team Loyola beat by double digits last year.