DALLAS — John Egan, a member of Loyola’s 1963 National Championship basketball team, knew this Loyola team was special from the moment he saw them scrimmage back in the fall.
“We all walked away and thought, ‘What do you have here? Is this really what we think we have?'” Egan told the Sun-Times in a recent phone interview. “And it became apparent that it was.”
For the first time in 33 years, Loyola’s men’s basketball is lacing up their dancing shoes.
Along with several other former Ramblers including Loyola legend Jerry Harkness, Egan was impressed by the strong chemistry had developed so early in the preseason.
“I’ve seen all the teams that have succeeded our team,” Egan said. “This is the first time — including the 1985 team — that I got really excited. I was used to some success from us until ’85 — it wasn’t like this team.”
Harkness said the team has already “done the unthinkable” by making the tournament, but now they have the opportunity to etch their name in history.
“They’re already a winner. I don’t want that to stop them, and I’m sure it doesn’t,” Harkness said. “They’ve done so much for the university and for themselves … They have done what we’ve been waiting for for 33 years.”
Ahead of Loyola’s game against Miami Thursday at American Airlines Center in Dallas, several former Ramblers have some tips and pointers for handling the pressures of playing in March Madness.
“Best advice I could give them — and I don’t know if they need it — sometimes when the pressure is great, players sometimes get tight,” Egan said. “They attempt to be too precise in everything they do instead of the natural way they do it, you don’t want to make too much out of the big game in the NCAA Tournament.”
“Have fun, move on,” Harkness said. “They’ve got the qualities to move ahead. If everything works out, they have the talent to advance.”
Alfrederick Hughes, who was a member of the 1985 team that made it to the Sweet 16, advised the team to embrace the moment.
“You’re about to be apart of something to make history, opportunity to be remembered for the rest of the life,” Hughes said. “For the first time since you played basketball that the whole world is watching you. Let the world know who you are, you have to. You have to live in the moment. You have to play for every minutes.”
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