ATLANTA — It’s a crossroads most college players never reach: Win the next game, and it’s onward to basketball immortality. Lose the next game, and it’s goodbye forever.
This is where Donte Ingram, Ben Richardson and Loyola’s other seniors find themselves. If they beat Kansas State in Saturday’s South Region final, they’ll become part of a Ramblers Final Four story that won’t ever get old no matter what happens in the games in San Antonio. Losing will mean peeling off their sweat-soaked maroon jerseys for the last time, an inevitability that never fails to hit hard.
“I’ve been here since Day 1 with Ben, from freshman year until now,” Ingram said. “We’ve come a very long way together. Obviously, to be here in Year 4 and we’re in the Elite Eight — and a week from now, college basketball will be over — we don’t take these moments for granted.”
Richardson was a two-time all-state player and two-time state champion in Kansas, but his college offers rose no higher than the mid-major level. Ingram was a solid contributor at Simeon at a time when winning state titles might as well have been printed in ink on the school calendar, yet he was in the same recruiting boat.
So they came together in Rogers Park.
“We really started turning the corner when Donte and Ben were freshmen,” coach Porter Moser said.
And now, their shared dream rides or dies in Georgia.
“We’re just super grateful to be here,” Richardson said, “and we’re grateful for all the hours that our teammates have put in, our coaches have put in. You know, we’re not necessarily thinking about basketball immortality or what it means to get to a certain point. We just want to win the next game.”
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.