O’Brien: Can Loyola sustain success? It all depends on recruiting

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 24: Lucas Williamson #1 of the Loyola Ramblers cuts down the net after his team defeated the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 24, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Loyola Ramblers defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 78-62. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775103399

Is Loyola a flash in the pan? Is this a lightning in a bottle season or will the Ramblers be able to sustain a high level of success?

That all comes down to recruiting. If Porter Moser stays, he can expect to enjoy a much higher profile locally.

“A lot of kids are going to want to play for them now,” former Farragut star Kawanise “Squeaky” Wilkins said. “Chicago kids think they have to go away to make a name for themselves. Loyola is showing them they can stay home and make a great run. City kids are going to see that and know they can stay home and make a name for themselves now.”

Wilkins knows all about the odd world of recruiting. Despite being one of the city’s top players last season, he didn’t pick up a Division I offer. He was All-State, All-Area and All-City, but it didn’t matter to colleges.

“I had to prove myself this season,” Wilkins said. “They said I was too slow, that I couldn’t guard. After a year in college basketball I answered those questions.”

Wilkins, a 6-6 guard, played at Barton Community College in Kansas this season. Like current Loyola freshman Lucas Williamson, Wilkins struggled to attract a DI offer in high school. The Ramblers eventually offered Williamson. No one came calling for Wilkins.

“It really humbles you,” Wilkins said. “You question why this happens, why you can’t be like the other guys. At the end of the day you just have to get over it and work. I questioned going to a junior college at first, but once I got here I worked hard and it is all paying off now.”

Farragut's Kawanise Wilkins (0) is fired up after taking down Uplift in the second round of the Public League playoffs. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

Farragut’s Kawanise Wilkins (0) is fired up after taking down Uplift in the second round of the Public League playoffs. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Wilkins has 11 scholarship offers now, including Loyola.

“I’ve been a fan of Loyola for a long time now,” Wilkins said. “I knew they could be a great team with the kids they had coming in. It is great to see, it shows that no matter what DI you go to as long as you play team ball anything can happen.”

Wilkins’ other offers are from Western Michigan, Kent State, Albany, Bradley, Indiana State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Winthrop, UIC, Hofstra and Northern Arizona.

Watching Williamson succeed after so many doubted him has just stoked Wilkins’ fire.

“It’s so cool to see him out there proving himself, proving everyone wrong,” Wilkins said. “He deserves it.”


Next season’s best newcomer is probably already on the team. Aher Uguak, a 6-7 transfer from New Mexico, had to sit out this season. He’s drawn raves since arriving in Rogers Park. Uguak is a cousin of former Bulls star Luol Deng and was the top prospect in Alberta, Canada two years ago.

The Ramblers signed three players in November: Franklin Agunanne, Isaiah Bujdoso and Cooper Kaifes.


Agunanne is a 6-9, 225-pound center with a 7-3 wingspan. He plays at La La Lumiere in LaPorte, Ind., one of the country’s top basketball prep schools.

Moser says that Agunanne is a “phenomenal inside presence and elite rebounder.”

Bujdoso is a 6-3 guard from Hamilton, Ontario. He also plays at a top-level prep school, Sunrise Christian in Kansas.

Kaifes is a 6-3 guard from Kansas, the home state of current Loyola stars Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer.

“[Kaifes] is as tough and competitive as they come and at first glance you can’t help but love his shot,” Moser said.

None of the three incoming recruits are elite prospects, but neither was Williamson or current big man Cam Krutwig.

Loyola has one spot left in this recruiting class. Expect most recruits to wait and see if Moser stays before pulling the trigger on a commitment.

The Final Four run won’t change Loyola into a blue blood that is able to recruit the nation’s elite players. But if Moser and his staff continually make better decisions than the big boys, it is easy to to imagine the Ramblers becoming a consistent threat to make the tournament.

“If you don’t play for one of the big-name AAU teams most colleges aren’t interested in you,” Wilkins said. “A lot of kids in the city fall through the cracks. It’s good to see a local school starting to take advantage of that.”

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  • Leegs1

    Moser earns about 420k at Loyola. I’m afraid he won’t stay around. Hope I’m wrong!

  • Marty M

    Hey Mike – would Cam Burrell be a fit at Loyola? You’ve seen him quite a bit.

  • Paul

    15 players out of a possible 224. Take that key board jack ass.

  • Lavar Ball

    Future success depends on recruiting? Really? Wow…I had no idea. Real Master of the Obvious over there.

  • lefty

    Hope he never feels the need to kiss the coaches…. “rings” that love to talk about themselves and not their players.

  • Downstate Nate

    I like Loyola’s chances at sustained success. Especially if they can win the national title.
    They will have a plan, unlike Illinois after their 2005 run. Good luck this weekend Ramblers!

  • The South Shore Tar

    It’s kind of funny to listen to the newscasters and sportscasters talk about Loyola. Three weeks ago they had no idea who was on the team. They have no idea who half the teams are in the Missouri Valley Conference. What a bunch of phonies. I’ve been to Loyola for games the past 5 years and the student apathy, even this year was blatant. Welcome to the band wagon.

  • COTY

    We lost a good man Darryl Thomas RIP

  • COTY

    Chicago kids and HS coaches have to buy in to the program its only 2 Chicago kids on the team hope CPS players coaches and parents take a hard look at what’s transpired

    • Paul

      How about kids who can play. The great CPS and the State of Illinois has been behind the rest of the country in terms of talent. Very overrated.

      • Downstate Nate

        Hey Paul, just wanted to salute your overrated post with one finger. I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out which finger I’m saluting with. Here are some players I noticed on Sweet 16 teams from Illinois:

        Jordan Caroline
        Kendall Stephens
        Donte Ingram
        Lucas Williamson
        Christian Negron
        Cameron Krutwig
        Zach Norvell Jr.
        Charles Matthews
        Jevon Carter
        Jalen Brunson
        Tommy Hamilton IV
        Nojel Eastern
        Charlie Moore (transfer – sat out this year)

        • Paul

          Ok, smarty pants you only listed 13 players. If there are 16 teams in the Final 16 then let’s say there are 12-14 per roster that doesn’t sound very impressive. Actually very poor.

          • Leegs1

            Two more from Illinois totaling fifteen. Seven percent of a thirteen team roster from Illinois. Not bad, out of fifty states plus foreign country players.

          • Downstate Nate

            But Paul, there are 50 states now. Not just the 13 colonies like back when you dropped out of the 2nd grade. The kids from Illinois impacting the NCAA tournament with the University of Illinois nowhere to be found are more impressive than your logic and reasoning abilities. It’s weird that Brad Underwood goes by “Paul” online. Good luck to you sir, you’re going to need it.

          • Paul

            Not good Mr Smarty Pants.

        • lefty

          No one even heard of Krutwig until 3 weeks ago unless you follow McHenry County basketball. And Moore, you mean the Morgan Park star who was in over his head with the great Cuonzo at Cal, then took his ball and went to Kansas when Martin was dismissed? Was that deal brokered by Irvin as well?

  • David Howard

    Chicago is home to Blue chip basketball talent
    If the talent stays home it won’t matter the conference Loyola plays the Ramblers will become a national power, the combo of a great degree and athletics will be very inviting. The location of the campus ( Rogers park) make Loyola slam dunk!.. The Gentile center will become a tuff ticket!..

  • David Howard

    If Coach stays Loyola will flourish, kids will realize with the one and done policy at most power 5 conferences, will make it possible for Loyola to make deep and consistent Ncaa runs yearly. Just as DePaul did under Coach Meyer.

  • Jeff Varda

    As a Loyola alum one of the great joys of this season is seeing the Chicago kids, Ingram and WIlliamson ,CPS kids do so well. Forget the bad publicity the City gets…these two kids represent 95% of all Chicago families and kids and schools. I hope people recognize this.

  • H.E.

    Today is a sad day. My son just lost his varsity coach. Daryl Thomas of Montini Catholic H.S.

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