Fresh off its first season in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in the 2013-14 season, the Loyola men’s basketball team welcomed Chicago-native Donte Ingram and Overland Park, Kansas-native Ben Richardson to the program. The Ramblers had just finished 4-14 in MVC play and the first-year duo was looking to jumpstart a program that had just three winning seasons in 30 years prior to joining the MVC.
The 2014-15 team won the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and ended with a 24-13 overall record. But, for Ingram and Richardson, it was just the beginning of two program-altering careers.
Four years later, after Loyola went 25-5 overall and 15-3 in MVC play, Ingram and Richardson will graduate having won the fourth-most games over four years in program history. Loyola has won 82 games since Richardson and Ingram’s first year, which is the most since the class of 1985 won 83 games over four years.
After former guard Milton Doyle became the first Chicago Public League player to wear a Loyola uniform since 2004, Ingram followed suit. Doyle graduated from Chicago’s Marshall High School, while Ingram graduated from Chicago’s Simeon High School, which has produced NBA products such as former Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose and current Milwaukee Bucks star Jabari Parker. While at Loyola, Ingram developed into one of the most prolific scorers on the team and earned third team All-MVC honors in 2017 and earned second team All-MVC honors in 2018.
Although Ingram stayed close to home, Richardson graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas. While there, he won two state titles alongside his best friend and current teammate Clayton Custer. He was known as a great defender and continued to be a force while at Loyola. While his defensive numbers weren’t mind-blowing — he averaged just 5.9 ppg over four seasons — he was named 2018 MVC Defensive Player of the Year.
The impact Ingram and Richardson have had has already positively affected the program. Over the years, they have developed leadership skills which have helped the team win its first MVC title this season. Without their contributions on and off the court, the transition to the MVC would have been even harder for Loyola.
Without Ingram and Richardson, I’m not sure how the Loyola rebuild would have shaped out. Who knows if Clayton Custer would have wound up playing in Gentile Arena, or if Moser would have landed three Chicago-area first-years this year?
When I first started on the men’s basketball beat last year, Richardson and Ingram were my first interviews. The team was coming off a 15-17 season and was looking to rebound from a loss to Wichita State University in the final minutes of the Arch Madness quarterfinals. I was just a little first-year born and raised in Illinois State University territory, so at the time, I didn’t quite realize I was talking to two key players in Loyola’s rebuild.
With the program now shaping up to be a perennial MVC contender, there’s no doubt Ingram and Richardson will get at least some credit for helping the team get to this point. There’s a reason the student section was chanting “thank you, seniors” during the final regular season game against Illinois State Feb. 24. This season wouldn’t have been possible without them.
I wish nothing but the best to Ingram and Richardson in their future plans. I look forward to, once again, covering the team at Arch Madness this year and seeing how the program moves on without them next year.