When it comes to spotting overlooked talent in Chicago area high schools, Loyola University’s men’s basketball coaches have been big winners.
They spotted Donte Ingram in good time. He couldn’t crack the starting lineup at Simeon Career Academy as a junior in high school. He averaged fewer than four points a game. That happened to be a fantastic Simeon team. One player, Jabari Parker, made it to the NBA.
For just about any other high school team, Ingram could have been a leading scorer that year. Loyola coach Porter Moser and his assistants could see it. They recruited Ingram the summer before he began a standout senior year at Simeon.
Basketball fans across the nation now know about Ingram and the rest of the Loyola Ramblers as they head into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament against the University of Nevada on Thursday (6:07 p.m., WBBM-Ch. 2). Ingram delivered a game-winning shot against Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament last week — the Jesuit Catholic university’s first time in the tournament since 1985.
Schools like Loyola that don’t play in the Big Ten or the other “major” conferences have a tougher time attracting the more talented teens. When coaches identify skilled players early, they must hope the players don’t fall in love with big arenas and television contracts that the “major” schools boast. They’re underdogs in many, many ways.
Loyola assistant coach Bryan Mullins got to Cameron Krutwig from the far northwest suburb of Algonquin first, before coaches at other universities had many clues about Krutwig. Scholarship offers later poured in, but Krutwig stuck with Loyola.
After Lucas Williamson of Whitney Young led his high school to a state championship in March 2017, he said yes to Loyola. “I feel like they are on the cusp of doing some outstanding things going forward,” Williamson told the Sun-Times at the time.
Cheer for Loyola and you’re cheering for home-grown talent, the best kind.
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