The roster is set. Now, it’s time to evaluate.
Loyola men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser has brought in arguably his best recruiting class since taking over the program in 2011 — a class that includes three highly-touted graduating high school seniors and two junior college transfers.
They’re all “Porter Moser players.” Moser has said many times he doesn’t recruit five-star recruits or players who’ll play one year before darting for the NBA. Instead, he looks for players who’ll fit his system, who have won championships and who will stay four years to graduate.
“I’m not going to sign a kid because some scouting service says he’s one star higher than this guy,” Moser told me two weeks ago. “I’m going after a certain profile of guy. I want winners. I want athleticism, speed, [a player] that is skilled. I want guys that want to be part of a program. I want guys that want to get an education.”
This recruiting class — Paxson Wojcik, Tom Welch, Marquise Kennedy, Keith Clemons and Jalon Pipkins — is exactly what Moser said he looks for. Wojcik, Welch and Kennedy are all listed as three-star recruits on 247sports.com, and Clemons and Pipkins were some of the top junior college players in the country.
Clemons won a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship this past year, while Kennedy, a graduate of Brother Rice High School on Chicago’s South Side, hit a crucial shot to send Brother Rice to the Illinois High School Association regional championship in February. Moser wants winners? Well, he’s got some.
Wojcik and Welch also joined Kennedy on the Illinois Wolves — a top-tier local club team coached by former Loyola associate head coach Bryan Mullins’ dad, Mike — so they’re no strangers to high expectations, either.
On paper, this class looks like it could be instant-impact. But of the five, only Pipkins has played in a Division I game; he played in 23 for California State University, Northridge before transferring to junior college two years ago. It’s tough to tell just how much of an impact they’ll have.
But if what’s on paper translates to what could happen on the court, this could be one talented team next year.
Kennedy might be the most talented of the group in terms of scoring. He averaged 23.8 points per game for Brother Rice this past year and shot 60 percent from the floor. But Welch, the 6-foot-8 big man from Naperville North High School in the south suburbs, also has the ability to make some noise considering he dropped 22.9 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game this season.
Couple them with Wojcik’s passing ability, and the “Three Little Wolves” have potential to do big things in their four years at Loyola.
Don’t overlook Clemons and Pipkins, though. Given Moser’s track record with junior college transfers — specifically 2017 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Sixth Man of the Year Aundre Jackson and 2016 second team All-MVC nominee Montel James — they should adjust quickly.
I said this was Moser’s most talented recruiting class before Pipkins and Clemons signed. Now, it’s even better. Next year might be about developing seeing as though guard Bruno Skokna will be the team’s lone senior.
But the 2020-21 season? If this group stays together, watch out.