Hungry Loyola tries new recipe

November 26, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Newness is everywhere.

The head coach is new. His assistants are new. The uniforms are new. The approach is fresh. Nearly half the roster is different from last season.

All that remains for the Loyola College basketball team is to register some brand new results.

The 2-25 season in which the team lost coach Tom Schneider (who resigned in midseason) and more games than any of its predecessors has been buried under a wave of enthusiasm.

For Tracy Bergan, who missed the collapse because of academic difficulties, his senior year offers the opportunity to settle some scores.

"You could see other teams waltz into our arena totally sure of themselves," said Bergan, a frequent spectator in the stands. "That look in their eyes bothered me.

"We can't have teams look at their schedule, see Loyola twice and mark down W and W [two wins]. We can just about guarantee you they aren't going to like to come in here anymore."

Coach Skip Prosser says furious defensive pressure will be the key to achieving that goal and agrees that "teams can't look forward to playing us in our gym.

"What we need to develop is a defensive attitude. We're not at the point yet where it really bothers us when the opposition scores. We don't have that hard-nosed outlook."

Prosser's idea is that constant defensive harassment of opponents will be the tonic for a Loyola offense that was almost invisible last season. He wants the team to score off the press, getting easy baskets from turnovers.

The Greyhounds averaged an anemic 58.2 points a game, shot 41.3 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent from three-point range. Those are not the kind of figures that will scare opponents.

Most of the onus fell on B. J. Pendleton, the hard-working forward who did what he could in a hopeless situation. There will be no repeat of that untidy circumstance.

For one thing, Bergan's return means ball distribution will be easier. And when forward Michael Reese comes back in January, Loyola will be much deeper and wiser.

Their presence complements a good group of freshmen -- guards Darius Johnson and Milton Williams and forward Julian Tate -- and gives Prosser the flexibility to play an up-tempo game with numerous people.

"I think it's unrealistic to think we'll play 13 guys," he said. "But there will be a lot of faces in there."

Add the team's hunger after a season of near-starvation and the blend is present for considerable improvement. Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coaches thought so, picking Loyola fourth among eight schools in the preseason poll.

"There is a real desire to win here and I think we have some very good players," said Prosser. "But there is not a clear understanding of how consistently hard you have to work to be successful."

"We are definitely hungry," said Bergan, a senior. "For me, this is it and I have a lot to prove every game. I think you're going to see us go all out full court for 40 minutes."

The new coach, for eight years Pete Gillen's top assistant at Xavier, was impressed with the team's unselfishness in its exhibition victory over the Fortean Institute, but expects his team to play much more intelligently.

Bergan and Pendleton seem the only certain starters until Reese returns. David Credle, Mark Sparzak, Johnson, Matt Walker and Tate all appear candidates to start.

Prosser said he feels a good start is important for his team, which faces a reasonably strong early schedule that includes road games at William & Mary, American, Mount St. Mary's and Delaware and Reitz Arena matchups with Towson State and St. Joseph's.

"I'm really concerned with the mental aspect," said Prosser. "Thosefirst five games before a long break are crucial. I just want to be sure we don't go south before the break.

"We're going to have to play with a lot of fire and emotion to get off to a good start."

That will mean spreading around the points, allowing Pendleton to relax and feel secure in the knowledge that he doesn't have to do it all.

Loyola has had five losing seasons in the past six and has a long way to go after beating only the Mount at home and St. Peter's on the road last winter.

In his first head coaching job, Prosser is stressing work, work and more work.

"The expectations are higher," said Bergan. "Coach really stresses that the load is not going to come down. Just because we're working hard doesn't mean it's hard enough.

"What he is offering us is a key to open the door. He knows what it takes to get there. Now it's up to us to find the key."

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