After losing three key seniors, the Loyola men’s basketball team (3-0) boasts a new look this season. Eleven newcomers — including six first-years — are trying to make up for the loss of last year’s integral seniors Montel James, Earl Peterson and Devon Turk, all to graduation.
The new-look Ramblers already have some experience playing together. The team visited Spain during summer break to compete against Spanish teams, which head coach Porter Moser said helped prepare the Ramblers for the regular season. He said the team got 10 practices under its belt on that trip, getting a head start on building chemistry.
“The NCAA rules allow [me] to work with the guys in the summer,” Moser said. “When you have new guys … the unknown is out there. You get 10 practices going to Spain, and that really helps with the newcomers.”
Moser also said he thinks the players will quickly adjust to playing at Loyola, whether they are coming from high school, another college or a foreign country. Moser has been involved with college basketball since 1986, when he was a player at Creighton University. So he said that he understands what a new player’s transition to Division I basketball is like and he expects it will take the newcomers some time to learn the ropes.
“There’s going to be a learning curve,” he said. “Nonetheless, you still have expectations … and you hope that learning curve is smaller.”
One of the big first-year additions to the team is forward Matt Chastain, who was recruited out of LeRoy, Illinois. In the Ramblers’ Nov. 14 game against Eureka, Chastain suffered a lower body injury that could keep him out for an extended period of time.
The team is hoping the promising wing player can return soon. Chastain led LeRoy High School to the Illinois High School Association Class 1A state title his senior year, averaging 26 points per game. He said being on a team with so many fresh faces eases his transition from playing basketball at a small high school. The less experienced players will be trying to get acquainted with the college system together and can help each other out, Chastain said.
“The veterans … have made it easier on all the newcomers,” Chastain said. “I think we had a pretty easy transition.”
Junior forward Ben Richardson is one of the veterans seeking to make the transition easy for Chastain and the rest of the incoming class. Richardson, who became a captain this season, said he’s looking to embrace more of a leadership role than he has in the past because there’s only one senior on the team.
“We had a lot of seniors last year and a lot of upperclassmen my freshman year,” Richardson said. “Being a junior and having a lot of new guys come in … has helped me make sure I’m always on my [game] so I can help the new guys.”
The Overland Park, Kansas, transplant added that confidence is the most important trait for the newcomers to have and said it’s important to progressively get better every day. He said the experiences he had with upperclassmen in his first couple years on the team were valuable to him. Now that he’s an upperclassman himself, he said it’s time for him to return the favor.
The Ramblers will be in action at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands from Nov. 18-21, facing off against St. Joseph’s University in the first round.