Loyola Basketball’s confidence is sky-high after hot start to the 2021 season

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NEW ORLEANS — Life changed a little over the weekend for Loyola Men’s Basketball program after an 80-72 exhibition win over the UNO Privateers.

Stacy Hollowell’s third win over a Division I program as head coach of the Wolfpack. 

“At this point it’s confidence. It’s been exciting for the fans, the social media, the attention. In the big scheme of things, it’s a confidence builder and we will keep moving forward,” says Loyola head basketball coach Stacy Hollowell.

Senior All-Americans Zach Wrightsil and Myles Burns were instrumental in the win, with Wrightsil scoring a game-high 26 points and Burns following with 18 and a game-high 6 steals.

“The win meant a lot for us actually because going into the season we have big aspirations of winning a national tournament. So for us, this game against UNO was really a big morale boost. Gave us the confidence knowing that we’re one of the top teams in the country, ” says Loyola senior Zach Wrightsil.

“I don’t only see it as a win for our school. I see it as a win for the NAIA. When you think about an NAIA, you don’t think about a school that’s really good at basketball. You don’t think about us being able to beat a school like that. So, it definitely gives us a different layer of credibility,” says Loyola senior Myles Burns.

Credibility Hollowell and the Wolfpack look to build on after a historic run to the NAIA National Tournament quarterfinals last year.

A round the program had not reached since the 1940s and one they fell to Lewis-Clark State.

“That game we lost last year, we lost in overtime. The team that we lost to made it to the championship. So, it’s like if we beat that team, we are in the championship basically. I feel like we definitely made the adjustments to our team mentally and physically to get back to the point where we can go all the way and win the national tournament,” says Wrightsil.

Adjustments in the form of experience and quality roster additions like Delgado transfer Brandon Davis.

In a handful of games, Davis has proven to be the perfect complement to Wrightsil and Burns, averaging 17 points per game.

He was just named the SSAC conference player of the week.

“I’ve always wanted to play with guys like them. I’ve never had a chance. Since high school, I’ve never had a chance and now I feel like God has put me in a position to play with two talented players so I can expand my game,” says Loyola sophomore Brandon Davis.

In their search for experience, Javan Felix emerged as an invaluable asset for the coaching staff. 

Felix was a star and state champion at St. Aug.

He played his college ball for Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns before trying his hand in the professional ranks.

“Javan is recently out of the G-League… He’s not dramatically older than these guys, they can relate to him. He can tell them, hey what the coach is telling you is right or hey, the coach is crazy. That can go either way, but they believe it. They feel it. We have some guys that can play at that level and one of the reasons we brought him in was to help mentor those guys,” says Hollowell.

“Just try to give them insight on things that I may see from a player’s perspective and try to help them go where I’ve been. I know when I was their age I set out to have goals to play professionally and play at a high level and those guys have those same aspirations and I try to pour into them as much as I can,” says Loyola assistant coach Javan Felix.

And it all seems to be coming together.

In 4 official, 5 unofficial games the Pack have a record-breaking 78 point win over North American University,  wins over cross-town rivals Dillard and Xavier, a win over top-ten LSU Shreveport, and its first win over UNO since 2012.

The fear is complacency, but that’s one thing coach Hollowell and his team plan to steer clear of as they move forward with their promising season.

“I always try not to get stuck in what we’ve done so far. We’ve done a lot but we haven’t done anything yet until we’ve got that title. So every time we have a good practice and people start feeling themselves. I’m like, this is good but next day, next day, next day until we finally get there,” says Burns.

“At this point, we have to find little reset buttons throughout the season. So, this nine-day period between our game against UNO and when we play Spring Hill on the 16th is one. I think we’ll have one right around Thanksgiving, and exam time. Then it’s full bore from there, January and February,” says Hollowell.

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