Whenever I talk to other reporters who’ve covered Loyola men’s basketball, I frequently hear about head coach Porter Moser’s tireless recruiting. I believed it — all I had to do was talk to him a few times to see how well he markets his program and the university.
After last year’s NCAA Tournament run, it’s easier for Moser to recruit players because of the exposure the team received. That’s evident by having three commitments from the high school class of 2019 before practice begins.
It started in June when Paxson Wojcik announced he was committing to Loyola. In August, Naperville native Tom Welch did the same. The icing on the cake came Sept. 17 when Chicago native Marquise Kennedy took to Twitter to say he chose Loyola over Florida State University and Wichita State University.
The trio has at least one thing in common: They all played for the Illinois Wolves — a club basketball team run by Mike Mullins. Mullins’ son, Bryan, is Loyola’s associate head coach.
Now, they’re preparing to be teammates again at Loyola as part of Moser’s best recruiting class since he was hired in 2011.
All three are listed as three-star recruits on 247sports.com. Welch and Kennedy are listed as the fifth and sixth best players, respectively, in Illinois. Wojcik’s listed as the No. 13 player in Indiana, as he attends La Lumiere School in LaPorte.
This season’s first-year class was Moser’s best before Wojcik, Welch and Kennedy committed. Franklin Agunanne is listed as a four-star recruit on ESPN while guards Isaiah Bujdoso and Cooper Kaifes are listed as three-stars on 247sports.
While Agunanne’s rating puts this group above the rest on paper, next year’s class is better for one main reason: Moser convinced two players to stay close to home. He’s made that a priority since his hiring and has seen success the last two years.
Former guard Milton Doyle, who went to Marshall High School and graduated from Loyola in 2017, went on to play for the Brooklyn Nets last season. Donte Ingram, who went to Simeon Career Academy and graduated from Loyola last year, hit the game-winning shot in Loyola’s first NCAA Tournament game since 1985 and recently signed a training camp contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
Both Doyle and Ingram will go down as two of the best players in Loyola basketball history. They stayed home and made an impact on a mid-major school rather than trying to land at a high-major. Now, Welch and Kennedy have the ability do the same.
Chicago area natives Cameron Krutwig (Algonquin), Christian Negron (Elgin) and Lucas Williamson (Chicago) should make the duo feel at home. Wojcik will feel at home, too — he’ll be with his AAU teammates and his former La Lumiere teammate, Agunanne.
Loyola officially has a young “Big Three.” While it’s not as big as the NBA’s Stephen Curry-Kevin Durant-Klay Thompson trio, this class is going to be fun to watch as they develop. It’s too bad I’ll only get to watch them as first-years.
Between this year’s sophomore class — which made an instant impact during Loyola’s Cinderella run — this year’s first-years and the “Three Little Wolves” coming in next year, Loyola’s going to be dangerous in 2019-20. While this year’s going to be fun too, next year’s shaping up to be even better.
Rambler fans need to be excited about what’s happening to the basketball program. After having two solid recruiting classes the last two years, Moser’s latest one takes the prize. It’s amazing what an NCAA Tournament run does to a mid-major program.
Sit back and enjoy the show. This is just getting started.