Intensity was the only thing that filled Gentile Arena at the Loyola men’s basketball team’s final summer practice Aug. 1.
Finishing out its summer camp, the Loyola men’s basketball team brought an urgency for a grueling two hours and 20 minutes as the players got in their final reps before a three-week break to return home to their families.
If I had one word to describe Coach Moser’s practice: Intensity— Tim Edmonds (@TimEdmonds_) August 1, 2019
Whether it was the ticking shot clock pressing on every player’s mind, sprinting down-and-backs after players made personal mistakes or the team swarming and cheering on one another after forcing a shot clock violation, the team had a gel and a camaraderie that was infectious — even though it’s only August and opening night is still 93 days away.
New and Old
On the court for the Ramblers was a true mesh of both new and familiar faces as the team attempts to recapture the nation’s attention after their return trip to the NCAA Tournament came up short last season. On one side were the players Rambler fans have come to know and love — juniors Lucas Williamson and Cameron Krutwig and senior guard Bruno Skokna.
Former Loyola guard Ben Richardson even made an appearance, who was in Chicago training with the team before making his next move after playing last season for MKS Dąbrowa Górnicza of the Polish Basketball League (PLK).
On the other side were the seven newcomers to the program in Keith Clemons, Jalon Pipkins, Tom Welch, Paxson Wojcik, Marquise Kennedy, Braden Norris and Tate Hall — newcomers who have given an exalted fan base all sorts of tempered optimism.
This battle of the old Loyola and the new Loyola was on display in their drills and especially five-on-five as five new arrivals — Clemons, Pipkins, Welch, Norris and Hall — went at a team of returners with a palpable fight to prove they’re here to make an impact and bring the program back to the national spotlight it captured in 2018.
‘Pip’ Steals the Show
Pipkins, or ‘Pip’ as the team calls him, said practices are hard because the players want to do whatever it takes to help each other get better.
“We’re brothers, first and foremost,” Pipkins told The Phoenix. “We’re here in practice to compete and we’re going at each [other’s] head.”
Pipkins, a transfer from Paris Community College in Texas, was the player who stood out the most from the practice as he began by dropping a few jaws with a crossover to throw down a dunk after breaking a defensive trap.
A central cog in pushing the intensity and focus that commanded the practice, Pipkins showed the athleticism that netted him several offers from Division I schools. Shaking off a reprimand from head coach Porter Moser early on about being soft on the glass, Pipkins soared to snag a pair of defensive rebounds where he re-caught the attention of Moser, who screamed out “Did you see what Pip just did? He just snapped the shit out of that rebound!”
Highs and Lows
Moser was fired up during the good moments, like Pipkins’ rebound, but other moments also caught his attention. One mistake in particular, early in practice from new first-year guard Marquise Kennedy, perfectly showcased the attention to detail and pride to which Moser holds his practices and players.
Errantly attempting an underhand pass to a teammate, Kennedy saw his toss lead to a quick Williamson steal and a loud, aggravated whistle blow from Moser. Screaming and preaching the importance of controlling the basketball, Moser demanded several down-and-backs for the entire team.
Sucking for breath as they returned from the sprints, teammates both encouraged and exclaimed at Kennedy to be more careful with the ball showing the “one-fall we-all fall” culture the team is built around.
‘New Faces, Same Expectations.’
As the team concluded its practice and banded together, whether guys were old or new, one constant was evident: the intensity and pride Moser’s practices entail will continue to have as long as he remains Loyola’s head coach.
One thing Moser said even before practice began became indisputable as the group walked off the court.
In reference that the high standards the program has built itself will remain, Moser cited Krutwig’s answer to the program losing Marques Townes and Clayton Custer after their National Invitation Tournament defeat to Creighton University and even in August, with the season over three months away, Moser’s practice was a commitment to keep this lofty promise.
“[Krutwig] said they’ve been a huge part of what we’ve been here,” Moser said. “But next year, it’s gonna be new faces, same expectations.”