No sooner had Tom Schneider arrived as Loyola's basketball coach than he sensed that a prized recruit was slipping from his grasp.
Tracy Bergan had played point guard at DeMatha High under Morgan Wootten, and then complicated things for Schneider by getting elected to the Maryland squad that played the U.S. stars in the prestigious Capital Classic. Among others, Bergan played against Kenny Anderson, who's currently starring at Georgia Tech.
Now, Old Dominion, Creighton and St. Louis wanted Bergan in addition to Loyola. Fortunately for Loyola, Greyhounds assistant Mark Lezanic had been tracking Bergan all winter.
"Morgan told me the kid could really play and I liked him in spite of his size," Schneider said after his 6-foot, 165-pound sophomore guard accumulated a game-high 24 points and six assists in Loyola's 63-57 triumph over Siena last night before 1,416 at Reitz Arena.
"Tracy made those all-star things [Capital Classic] and we had to wait," Schneider said after Loyola (8-10, 2-6 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) dropped Siena to 13-7, 5-4. "We were lucky. I mean, we're not exactly UCLA."
Delighted as he was to be named to the Capital Classic and play against luminaries like Anderson, the experience didn't raise his stock as much as he thought it would.
"I was on the edge of the big-time," Bergan said. "The big Division I schools didn't want to take a chance on a 6-foot skinny white kid. They kept me hanging, and I didn't know how long Loyola would wait."
Bergan made an immediate impact at Loyola. He started 11 of the first 14 games, erupted for 35 points one night against Navy and then was obliged to sit out the last 14 games because of academic deficiencies.
"I only had one bad semester, my first one," said Bergan. "I had a 2.7 last spring. I'm still on probation, but my grade-point average is on the rise."
Bergan, who leads the MAAC in free throw percentage (86-plus) and assists (5.5), showed little indication last night that his scoring average entering the game was only 12.5. By halftime, he had 12 points.
More were to come, most of them big. Bergan tied the score at 43, 54 and 56, then put Loyola ahead, 58-56 and 60-57. He scored nine of the Greyhounds' last 12 points.
"They were taking Kevin Green away," Schneider said, referring to Loyola's usual scoring leader. "Tracy got [points] at the end of something or broken plays. He can go on things like that."
The victory came on the heels of Loyola's exhilarating 66-65 overtime win over Iona Saturday. It was Bergan, incidentally, who sent that game into OT with a three-pointer.
"These last two, together, are the biggest in the two years I've been here," said Schneider, adding that he hadn't forgotten the early-season win over Mount St. Mary's, Loyola's first over its longtime rival since 1981.
"This is a big-time win for us. Siena is a team that took Pitt to the wire. We're not going to get big-headed, but we can build on this."
Junior forward Kevin Anderson searched his memory for a win with more import in his time at Loyola.
"Biggest win since I've been here," concluded Anderson, who came a year before his coach.