Mens’ basketball team makes Loyola history


Gabrielle Korein

Zach Wrightsil (23) prepares to launch into action at the game against William Carey University on January 22, 2022. The Wolf Pack will play in the NAIA final four today for the first time since 1946.

Alexandra Akes, Assistant Sports Editor

Loyola mens’ basketball has pushed the boundaries of success for Loyola sports.
The team became the first Loyola program to be ranked No.1 in the NAIA, and had a 16-game winning streak across the span of 84 days. Now ranked No.2 with a 22-1 overall and 11-1 conference record, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight of success for the Wolf Pack.
“I like winning a lot. The fact that we won 16 games in a row is something special,” said graduate guard player Andrew Fava.
Fava, who transferred from the University of Florida in 2019, attributes some of the team’s success to strong leadership.
“We’re led by upperclassmen,” Fava said. “Myles Burns, Zach Wrightsil, and TJ Smith all come to my mind. They know what’s expected. Everybody knowing their role is something big for us.”
Head Coach Stacy Hollowell said that a variety of players have added depth to the team’s playing strategy.
“We’ve added some pieces to the group that help us in depth and build confidence in the guys that have been around,” Hollowell said. “When we’re hitting on all cylinders, those things are all coming together with the athleticism that we have and the energy that we play with and it works.”
Mass communication senior Myles Burns said that the level of team chemistry is a key reason why the team has continued to thrive.
“This is a team that puts aside their own personal agendas,” Burns said. “When guys are able to push aside their pride and do what’s best for the team, it’s going to be hard for that team not to be top tier,” Burns said.
Burns has led the team in more ways than one this season, averaging 13.1 points per game.
“Selfish basketball is contagious,” Burns said. “I try to focus on getting my teammates the ball and process everything as I play,” said Burns.
Fava, averaging 11.5 points per game, said that team chemistry is the driving force of the squad.
“We hang out with each other off the court, a lot of us live with each other. Any free time we have, we hang out with each other,” said Fava. “We know our strengths and weaknesses on the court, and we know our personalities off the court and we’re lucky that we all get along very well.”
The Wolf Pack exceeded their No.5 pre-season ranking, conquering wins against Dillard, LSU Shreveport, and Spring Hill College along the way earlier this season.
One highlight that stood out for the pack was an exhibition game defeat against NCAA Division 1 program, the University of New Orleans.
The Wolf Pack was up 35-34 at the half and secured an 80-72 victory against UNO at the Lakefront Arena.
“For us to pull off a win like that made a statement and added some credibility to our team and the NAIA, Burns said. That was a big mark for us and I’m super glad we were able to pull that off,”.
Senior Zach Wrightsil earned his third SSAC Player of the Week Honor for the season this January. Brandon Davis and Burns also received the honor this season.
“We’ve used Zach in a number of different ways in games this year, kind of strategically, Hollowell said. And that has given us a little different kind of look. We’ve added some guys who can shoot it from the perimeter that we didn’t have last year,”.
Earlier this season, the Wolfpack began practicing and hosting games at Tulane’s Devlin Fieldhouse due to damage to the University Sports Complex after Hurricane Ida.
But on Jan. 22, The Wolf Pack returned to a full house at The Den, their course on campus, and beat William Carey University 91-64.
Fava said being able to play at The Den has been beneficial for the team.
“Being back at The Den gives us a sense of stability that we really haven’t had much of this year,” Fava said. “This year with the hurricane and COVID-19, it’s like our second year dealing with adverse situations, so not having a home court was just another thing in our minds .”
The Wolf Pack has nine games left in its regular season, and the SSAC Championship will take place on February 22nd.
Loyola will next host No.2 Talladega College at The Den Feb. 12 for their senior day game.
“We want to see The Den packed, Hollowell said. “The added energy that the fans bring is always great,” said Hollowell.