Milton Doyle is pretty laid back when he sits down for an interview.
But when he steps out on the basketball floor, he becomes something a little more spectacular. Doyle, the "transfer" from Kansas, took a long road to get to Loyola, but excited the crowd with his 15 attempts at making the winning dunk at Midnight Madness.
It was a leaping dunk over the dreads of Jeff White that ruled the night. The crowd wouldn't let the freshman quit, and after, Porter Moser asked the Rambler faithful to show that same enthusiasm this season.
It is supposed to be a special year at Loyola. It is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 NCAA Tournament championship team. It is also the anniversary of "The Game of Change," when an all-white Mississippi State team had to sneak out of Mississippi to face a mixed race Loyola team at Michigan State. The Ramblers will honor both events this season, including the first meeting of the Ramblers and Bulldogs since that night.
Moser wants it to be the turnaround season for Loyola too. He talked about going to Butler and seeing a 1967 banner on their wall, and then a 30-year gap before all the success that fans have come to associate with the Bulldogs. He said that something changed that year for Butler; something was different, be it the fans or the coach, or the team.
And he implored the fans to help this year be the year, just as they implored Doyle to keep shooting.
It might take a few wins before it sinks in at the Gentile Center. Ben Averkamp can only do so much for the Ramblers. He already looked smooth in layup drills and a little dunking prior to the big show by Doyle and Nick Osborne. It was as if he hadn't left the floor since last season came to an end.
And Osborne looked explosive in his acrobatics (and impressed the ladies with his shirtless attempt that missed. Guess abs win.)
Doyle stole the show though with his shy demeanor, yet explosive skills on the court. After the winning dunk, as Moser encouraged the crowd, he was massaging his back as he sat on the floor. It is probably nothing, but it does help illustrate how thin the line is for success and failure for the Ramblers. A little twinge here or there and they could quickly be at the back of the pack in the Horizon League (where they were picked by many to finish anyway).
Loyola has a long way to go before Midnight Madness in Rogers Park looks like Midnight Madness in Lexington, Ky.
Yet maybe Friday night was the start of a season of change in Chicago.