Aug. 26, 2012
CHICAGO - The Loyola men's basketball team recently returned from a two-week, four-game trip to Italy in which it posted a 3-1 record. In addition to the game competition, the team experienced a new culture, took advantage of sightseeing trips and learned about the history of several cities and monuments in Italy
Second-year head coach Porter Moser's squad closed out the trip with back-to-back wins after splitting its first two games. The trip was a great bonding experience for the players, both on and off the court, and gave Moser and his staff an opportunity to utilize several lineup combinations, while also providing the team with a handful of practices and competition dates for a roster the features eight newcomers, including eligible transfer Cully Payne.
Loyola opened the trip with a victory over All-Star Italy before suffering its only loss, a 74-65 setback, to Bassano del Grappa. The Ramblers bounced back from that defeat however, by winning their final two games, against Zepa Marostica and Legnano Basket.
RAMBLERS GET OFFENSIVE
After putting up only 57.2 points per game last season, one of the lowest marks among all NCAA Division I teams, Loyola showed in Italy that it should be a much more potent team in 2012-13. Playing under FIBA rules, which included a 24-second shot clock, in four games in Italy, the Ramblers put up 82.3 points per game, twice scoring more than 90 points.
PAYNE AT THE POINT
No Rambler has averaged more than 5.0 assists per game in a single season since David Bailey in 2002-03 (5.3 apg), but if the trip to Italy is any indication, Loyola appears to have its best true point guard in a decade. Cully Payne, who sat out last season after transferring from the University of Iowa, averaged 9.3 assists per game in four contests in Italy, thrice reaching double figures in setups. In the Ramblers' 92-39 victory over Zepa Marostica, the 2010 Sporting News All-Big Ten Freshman selection dished out 11 helpers. Along with seniors Ben Averkamp and Jordan Hicks, Payne was the only other Rambler to earn the starting nod in each of the team's four games in Italy.
Loyola's 2012-13 roster features six true freshmen and on the team's four-game trip to Italy, each one provided key contributions. In fact, four of those rookies scored in double figures at least once on the trip, with forward Matt O'Leary throwing in a team-best 22 points off the bench in the Ramblers' 92-56 victory over All-Star Italy August 14. Guard Jeff "KeKe" White led all Loyola freshmen with an 11.7 ppg average on the trip, while O'Leary and Devon Turk each chipped in 11.3 ppg.
One of only four scholarship upperclassmen on the 2012-13 roster, senior forward Ben Averkamp will be looked upon to provide leadership for this season's young squad. Last season, the 6-foot-8, Germantown, Wis., native had his best season as a Rambler, contributing 15.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 2.6 apg, en route to Second Team All-Horizon League accolades. In Italy, Averkamp picked up where he left off last season, posting team highs of 13.3 ppg and 6.3 rpg, while hitting 52 percent (23 for 44) of his field goal attempts. Averkamp scored in double figures in three of the team's four games in Italy, totaling 21 points and 10 rebounds, one of the team's two double-doubles on the trip, as Loyola closed out the trip with an 82-67 victory over Legnano Basket August 22.
Fifth-year senior Jordan Hicks missed the first 10 games of the 2011-12 campaign and once he returned to action took a few weeks to find his rhythm. However, over the final 13 games of the season, the 6-foot-6 guard/forward accounted for 10.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg. Now healthy to start the season, Hicks averaged 9.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg in four games in Italy, but more impressively, he connected on 56 percent (15 for 27) of his field goal attempts, including 54 percent (7 for 13) from three-point territory. He was named MVP of the game after putting up 14 points and five boards in Loyola's 92-39 win versus Zepa Marostica August 20 and also tallied 13 points and 10 boards in a 92-56 victory against All-Star Italy August 14.
Seemingly everyone on the trip made key contributions to Loyola's 3-1 record. In fact, eight of the 12 players that competed in a game scored in double figures at least once on the trip, with Averkamp leading all Ramblers with three games of 10 or more points.