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.”
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.”Tags: Farragut, loyola university