Blossoming into a leader in scoring and assists in his final season, redshirt senior Marques Townes has seen a leap in his second year with the Loyola men’s basketball team few saw coming.
Joining head coach Porter Moser’s squad as a transfer in 2016 from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, Townes was an integral part to Loyola’s eventual Final Four finish after sitting out the 2016-17 season due to transfer rules. He’s best remembered for nailing a late three-point field goal to defeat University of Nevada in the Sweet Sixteen.
This season, Townes has raised the bar even higher as he’s become the Ramblers’ leading scorer, and the 23-year-old has grown into the team’s leader on-and-off the court, according to Moser.
“[Marques] is really becoming a leader,” Moser said. “This year, he’s taken way more ownership with the leadership role and his confidence level.”
Statistically, Townes is in the midst of his best collegiate season yet, and has seen increases in his production across the board from a year ago when he didn’t receive any all-conference honors. This is highlighted by his consistency as a scorer for the Ramblers as he’s reached double figures in each of the team’s 14 conference matchups. Townes is averaging a career-best 15.6 points per game and a conference-leading 18.2 points per game in Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play.
“This year, it just kind of fell into my hands, I can’t really explain it how it just happened,” Townes said. “The coaches have complete confidence in me and when you have that, the sky’s the limit.”
The increase in scoring has been propelled by two major factors: increased usage and better three-point shooting. Townes has become an essential part of Moser’s system and as a result finds himself on the bench rarely, as he leads the team in minutes at 33.5 per game, a big step up from last year’s 28.1 mark. Townes’ importance to the Ramblers this season was best shown when he logged all 40 minutes in the team’s 65-61 loss to Missouri State Feb. 17.
He’s also found more success from the three-point line since conference play started. He’s shooting at a 45.8 percent clip since Loyola opened conference play Jan. 2, a 7.1 percent increase from last season’s mark.
“The coaches have complete confidence in me and when you have that, the sky’s the limit.Marques Townes, Loyola guard
“We do a lot of shooting. Every single practice regardless of the situation we’ll put up shots,” Townes said. “Alongside that, I work out with some guys in Chicago working on my shot, the progress is showing this year.”
Townes’ breakout has proven timely for Moser’s squad this season as the losses of key contributors Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson as well as the struggles of fellow redshirt senior guard Clayton Custer have left the Ramblers with few other playmakers. Despite this, Townes has stepped up in a big way to try to get Loyola back to the NCAA Tournament, and his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed across the MVC.
Along with his teammate, sophomore center Cameron Krutwig, Townes has been discussed by analysts and announcers as potential Larry Bird Player of the Year candidates in the MVC. Even with this talk, the duo insisted they’re not worried and their only target is to close out the season with the number one seed heading into Arch Madness in St. Louis.
“We haven’t really talked about it, honestly,” Townes said. “We’re just trying to focus on us right now so that’s the last thing we think about right now, but if it does happen, we’ll be happy for each other no matter what happens.”
Even with the personal accolades he’s accumulated, Townes said his final season will be defined by team success and hopes to lead the Ramblers to the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row.
“We’ve got to finish the rest of our schedule strong and just get ready for that conference tournament,” Townes said.
The Ramblers’ season is scheduled to continue Feb. 20 as they take on University of Evansville at Gentile Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Chicago.