This season the Loyola men’s basketball team went undefeated in its first seven games, something that hasn’t happened since 2010-11. With former guard Milton Doyle graduated, the leadership role was left vacant and others have stepped up to fill the void.
Three of the seniors — guards Donte Ingram and Ben Richardson and forward Aundre Jackson — have been named the captains of this year’s team. Joined by redshirt junior guards Clayton Custer and Marques Townes, the five players have become the team’s new core of leadership, according to head coach Porter Moser.
“I think it has been more committee [that has been leading the team],” Moser said. “That could be a positive: Strength in numbers.”
Richardson is currently on the bench after he broke his hand against the University of Missouri-Kansas City Nov. 16, which required surgery. He‘s expected to be out four to six weeks.
In 2014, Doyle dealt with a similar situation when he tore the labrum in his right shoulder. This injury required surgery and left him on the bench for five to six weeks. Moser said he hopes that Richardson will lead the team like Doyle did when he was on the sideline.
“[Richardson] can’t lead with his actions on the floor, so he can work on being more verbal,” Moser said. “It is an opportunity for him to really engage in his leadership with him being out. That is the best way he can help us right now, by getting better, sharing his wisdom and sharing his insight with some of the guys who are playing.”
Doyle, has really influenced and helped Richardson become the leader that he is today. Richardson said he knows that instilling confidence in the younger players will help them perform at their best.
“I just try and bring energy as much as I can on the bench,” Richardson said. “[I] try and pick things out that I see [that maybe] guys don’t see on the court, or they are not noticing.”
Richardson and the other four-year members of the team, including Custer, have been working with the first-years and other newcomers to make sure they’re adjusting to the college basketball scene.
“I think it is just making sure you keep them confident, but you also have to get into them sometimes and make sure that they are on point,” Custer said. “What you learn really quick when you play at this level is that you have got to stay focused through the whole game. You can’t ever let your guard down.”
In addition to leading vocally, the committee is leading by example on the court. Jackson and Townes put up 25 and 23 points, respectively, for Loyola during the Nov. 24 game against University of North Carolina-Wilmington — a 2016 NCAA tournament team.
Ingram picked up his first double-double of the season Nov. 21 against Mississippi Valley State University, and he said while he was happy about the double-double, he was more worried about getting the victory rather than his individual performance.
“It feels good to get a win and help the team however I can,” Ingram said. “Obviously [the game] got to a slow start, my energy level was low. I was determined, in the second half, to come out strong.”
Townes — a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson University — has been adjusting to the team. After sitting out for 14 months, due to NCAA transfer rules, he’s demonstrating great game play on the court for other newcomers.
“This kid wants it very, very badly and that is a great sign,” Moser said. “Three rebounds in seven minutes, that is a pretty good rebound [average].”
The captains have three years of experience under their belts. Richardson said he believes they have the skills to take the team to the NCAA tournament.
“We know where we started and how everything’s going since we came in and what we need to do,” Richardson said. “Now it’s our last year and we have had a lot of experience and we got to see good teams, better teams, not so good teams. So we kind of pick and choose what we like from those teams and try to put it together into this team to be the best we can be. It’s our last year so we are trying to go all the way, pedal to the metal.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to face the University of Illinois at Chicago Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. in Gentile Arena.