Loyola has come a long way in the last seven years.

When coach Porter Moser was hired in 2011 to take the reins of the Ramblers’ basketball program, he had a lot of wrangling to do. He inherited a mediocre Horizon League team and since has transformed it into a Missouri Valley Conference champion that is headed to the NCAA Tournament.

It all started with rebuilding the culture of the program.

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Not long after Moser was hired, he created a wall in Loyola’s locker room and filled it with various words and phrases. ‘‘Hands to the light,’’ ‘‘ball-you-man,’’ ‘‘low and leveraged’’ and ‘‘get out of the mud’’ might be meaningless to the average Joe, but they are words to live by for the Ramblers.

 

Porter Moser created a “Loyola Culture” wall in the team’s locker room. | Bill Behrns/Loyola Athletics

‘‘Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t know what any of those meant,’’ guard Lucas Williamson said.

But now Williamson, who played high school ball at Young, can tell you what every word means and how they apply to the game.

‘‘Defensively, at the beginning of the season, I got called in games for fouls,’’ Williamson said. ‘‘Coming from the Public League, which is a different style, it’s a little more rough. . . . ‘Hands to the light’ means hands to the ears and jump straight up.’’

Moser long has stressed the importance of discipline and of being in the right mindset to win, and things finally have fallen into place for Loyola.

After winning the MVC’s regular-season and tournament titles, the Ramblers will be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1985. Moser said he is gratified to see how far his ‘‘grassroots rebuild’’ has come in seven seasons.

In light of the recent findings of an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, including reports of programs paying athletes under the table, Moser is even more proud in knowing that Loyola did it ‘‘the right way.’’

‘‘Especially in the world of what is going on in college basketball . . . these guys and this program can lift our heads high and say, ‘We’re doing it the right way,’ ’’ Moser said. ‘‘We have scholar-athletes as well as players of the year. It’s gratifying to invest in that and get where we are the right way.’’

Loyola eagerly is anticipating Selection Sunday, when it will find out where it’s seeded and which team it will play.

Moser said he wants his players to ‘‘enjoy the process’’ but not to get caught up in the moment.

‘‘I can’t stress it enough,’’ Moser said. ‘‘We’ve had this mantra: [Focus on the] one game in front of us and then, when we’ve won it, put it in the bank. We’ve talked about how the [MVC] tournament is in the bank now. Everything is about our focus moving forward, whoever we play, and part of that is we’ve got to get better this week.’’

Follow me on Twitter @madkenney.

Email: mkenney@suntimes.com