Dec. 17, 2005
BALTIMORE, Md. - Off to an outstanding 5-1 start, the Greyhound men's basketball team is beginning to gain some national attention. Recently, the Greyhounds were featured in a pair of articles on ESPN.com's Insider area. The articles, written by Jay Bilas and Kyle Whelliston are posted below.
Courtesy of ESPN.com Insider Kyle Whelliston
St. Ignatius of Loyola, key figure in the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church, was all about hard work, dedication and discipline. In fact, he wrote the book on 'em -- "Spiritual Exercises," penned back in the old-school 1500s.
And while it may not have any profound religious consequences, two small American colleges that bear his name are using those precepts to find early-season success on the basketball court. The Loyola (Chi.) Ramblers of the Horizon League are 6-1 while the MAAC's Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds are 5-1.
The two Loyolas have more in common than the name on the front of the jersey -- both are helmed by second-year coaches who inherited programs that were stripped down to their foundations. Loyola (Md.)'s Jimmy Patsos spent 13 seasons as assistant coach and academic mentor under Gary Williams, during which time Maryland moved from the ACC outhouse to the national penthouse. Jim Whitesell earned the Loyola (Chi.) job by way of his rebuilding prowess at the lower levels.
Whitesell is overseeing construction on a tower of basketball, one that will someday rise over Lake Michigan's big-shouldered and windy city. After turning around Division III Elmhurst in the nineties and then Division II Luther College in the early part of this decade, he's got this rebuilding thing down cold.
"First thing is establishing a good work ethic with the present kids, a base," said Whitesell. "That's year 1. Year 2 is to do some good recruiting, and hopefully those who stay really buy in to what you're doing."
Led by 6-7 do-everything point guard Blake Schilb (17.0 ppg) and four others who currently average in double-digits, the Ramblers seem to be following the blueprint. After a 13-17 record in Whitesell's first season (a four-game improvement), their six wins this season include a convincing home win over Purdue of the Big Ten on Sunday.
But in terms of comparative numbers, the Loyola on the north side of the Windy City can't match the dramatic turnaround taking place on the north side of Charm City.
The Greyhounds won a single game the season before Coach Jimmy Patsos showed up, and followed up last year's 6-22 campaign by winning their first five out of the gate in 2005-06. Patsos gives credit to a long, hot summer of high-level hoops.
"Summer basketball in Baltimore's always been big," said Patsos. "They closed a famous place in town called The Dome, so a lot of NBA and blue-chip high-school players ended up coming around to our gym. Having those guys around taught our guys how to win, how to compete, that it's okay to have fun playing hard."
Led by Terps ex-pat guard Andre Collins (24.0 ppg), Loyola East has had a lot of fun so far. They swept through the slate of Maryland games (Towson, UMBC, Mount St. Mary's) that usually digs the 'Hounds into an early-season hole.
And the Greyhounds' success on the court is translating into better name recognition on the recruiting trail, according to their coach.
"Last year, I'd walk into places and have to say, 'Yes, there's a college in Baltimore called Loyola, and yes, we want to recruit you," said Patsos. "I went on the road a couple of days ago and it was, 'Hey, coach, saw the American U. game on TV. Nice win.' It's a lot better than having to convince people we're not Loyola Marymount."
The high-octane, hurry-up glory days of the LMU Lions may be long gone (they're 2-6 this year), but there's nothing newsworthy about Jesuit schools with great hoops. And Loyola (Chi.)'s coach is pleased to see that schools named after the order's founder are back making a splash on the national scene.
"Everyone knows about Gonzaga and Creighton and Georgetown," said Whitesell. "But we Loyolas -- Chicago and Baltimore ... we're greatschools with great academics too, we just have a smaller profile than the other guys.
"I'm happy to see that the Jesuit family is doing well."
St. Ignatius would be proud, indeed.
Analysis by ESPN.com's Jay Bilas
"Loyola (Md.): Jimmy Patsos inherited a mess and took some early beatings in his young career as a result of it. Now he has a team of hard workers who take very little for granted.
Diminutive guard Andre Collins , the former Terp, is averaging 24 points, four rebounds and four assists per game, and Croatian forward Josko Alujevic is averaging 12 points and more than seven rebounds per game to pace a hardworking squad. Expect the Greyhounds to get tougher when Hassan Fofana is eligible -- just in time for the Virginia game.
I am not saying Loyola is NCAA Tournament-bound yet, but Jimmy Patsos is NCAA Tournament-bound. He can coach."