Loyola receives VIP treatment at United Center
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As Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg pointed out, the Loyola basketball team will be celebrating reunions for years after their Cinderella march to the Final Four.
The first one might have taken place Saturday.
A week after losing to Michigan in the national semifinals, the Ramblers’ players and coaches were seated in a luxury suite for the Bulls’ game against the Nets at the United Center.
‘‘It’s such a cool story,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘That’s something these guys will always have such great memories of. They’ll have reunions for this team 20, 30, 40 years down the road. It’s such a great story when you have a Cinderella, a double-digit seed, do something special like those kids did.’’
Hoiberg knows something about special college teams. He guided Iowa State to the Sweet 16 in 2014, but the Cyclones didn’t exactly sneak up on the country the way Loyola did.
‘‘‘They did it with heart and determination,’’ Hoiberg said of the Ramblers. ‘‘They did such a good job of playing unselfishly and with confidence. It was a fun ride to watch. Just the way the city rallied around them was fun to watch. I’m excited for those kids.’’
He wasn’t the only one in the building excited for them. Rookie guard Milton Doyle, who played college ball at Loyola, just happened to be in town with the Nets.
‘‘It was great watching those guys,’’ Doyle said. ‘‘I didn’t get to watch a lot of the games, just because we played a lot of the time. But I went back and watched a lot of the clips and talked to those guys after every game, so it was a great feeling seeing all their success.
‘‘Yeah, I knew they were going to be pretty good, just because I was the only one to leave [after last season]. So I knew with the juniors we had, the leadership that was going to be going on this year and the freshmen that came in, they were probably going to be big for the program, too.’’
Off the Mark
Hoiberg and his staff decided to rest rookie Lauri Markkanen on the second night of a back-to-back, but they plan to get him back in the starting lineup for the last two games of the season.
‘‘Well, when he came back from the [back] injury, the decision was made that he would not play in the back-to-backs, and we’re going to stick to that,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘He still has some issues with his elbow more than anything right now. We just want to make sure that we keep him healthy going into the offseason, so we’re going to stick to that plan.’’
Hoiberg still wouldn’t say whether Cameron Payne has jumped Jerian Grant on the depth chart for the backup point-guard job, but it won’t matter in two games anyway.
‘‘We’ll figure all that out in the offseason,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘It will be good competition in the offseason heading into training camp next year.’’