With Kevin Green, Loyola has the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's fourth-leading scorer from a season ago and one of the area's best players at creating a shot. With Tracy Bergan, the Greyhounds return the league's top assist man who can also put the ball in the basket.
The two made up one of the MAAC's top backcourts, yet the Greyhounds finished seventh in the league and had their fourth straight losing season.
Now comes Michael Reese, a transfer from Boston College. With the lanky 6-foot-8 sophomore, the Greyhounds may be in contention for the MAAC title.
"He's by no means going to take us from where we've been to the top 20," Loyola coach Tom Schneider said of Reese during a recent practice. "But he certainly makes us more competitive against more teams on our schedule."
Reese is the inside scoring threat the Greyhounds have lacked in the guard-dominated MAAC. He's also an excellent leaper with a knack for the ball, which should help a team that was out-rebounded by almost five a game.
"I think I can be an immediate impact here," said Reese, out of Woodson High School in Washington, who averaged 8.1 points at Boston College. "I think I do everything pretty well. I'm a good scorer, and a decent rebounder for my size."
He'll have to fit his skills into a program that showed improvement in finishing 12-16 last season. Loyola has a good nucleus of Green, Bergan and forward Kevin Anderson (Loyola High).
A Dunbar graduate, Green averaged 22.1 points last season, earning first-team all-MAAC honors. While Green is the league's top returning scorer, most publications have picked La Salle guard Randy Woods (22.1) as the MAAC Player of the Year.
"I'd like to prove the magazines wrong," said Green, who led the team in scoring 19 times last season. "But I just want to go out with a winning season. If our inside players come to play every game, we'll be one of the top teams in the league."
At the point is Bergan, a junior who led the league in assists (5.8 per game) as well as finishing 10th in scoring (15.1).
"Some people don't like a point guard who can score, but I love it,"Schneider said. "What he has to do is cut down on turnovers. His play is important to us."
Anderson was the other Greyhound in double figures last year, with 11.6 points per game and clutch three-point shooting that was the key to several victories.
The fifth starter could be 6-7 center George Sereikas, who played well during a late-season stretch in which Loyola won six of seven games. Sereikas plays the low post with confidence, and with other teams keying on the other starters, he might be overlooked.
"I worked hard on my offense over the summer," Sereikas said. "That good stretch I had just happened to come when we were winning, and it gave me a lot of confidence. I felt I was helping the team."
What should help this team this season is depth. Key contributors who return include back-up point guard Mike Malone, 6-8 center Mark Sparzak (Calvert Hall) and 6-5 forward Jon Haggler. In addition to Reese, a newcomer to watch will be freshman forward Brian Pendleton (6-6, 220). Contributions could also later come from 6-11 freshman center Ricky Wohl, who played on the Luxembourg junior national team, and Chad Anderson, one of the top players in Northern Virginia, out of Woodbridge High School.
"Part of our situation now is we have all these new people we have tofit in," Schneider said. "For us to be better, we have to get the new guys to blend in and understand what we're doing."
One of the main concerns Schneider has entering the season is defense. The Greyhounds gave up 76.5 points per game and allowed more than 85 points in three of their last four season-ending losses.
"We have to be a much better team defensively, and we've stressed that in preseason," Schneider said. "We're going to score points -- we scored 70 or so points last year with basically three guys doing it, and we feel we'll have some more firepower.
"The consensus is either La Salle or Iona are the best in the league, and all the rest of us will be better," he added. "We're somewhere in the middle. But not that far behind the people at the top."