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1968 Basketball Team (2006)

When Coach Gene Sullivan departed Loyola Academy for the University of Notre Dame in the spring of 1967, he left behind a stable of thoroughbreds — bridled, saddled, and ready to go. If the game of basketball is, finally, about putting the ball in the bucket, the running Ramblers of 1968 played the definitive game. With record-setting the 1968 Basketball Team parlayed tenacious defense, aggressive rebounding, and a fastbreak ethos into an offensive juggernaut. Averaging an astonishing 85 points per game, the Ramblers of '68 broke the 100-point barrier five times, assaulting the school and league record books on their way to a 23-win season. Coach Jim Arneberg and his assistants, John and Jim O'Loughlin, inherited a group of players perfectly-suited to the up-tempo game he envisioned. Running the show at guard here two fleet playmakers, 6'1" senior Bob Albert (15.9 p.p.g., 205 assists) and 5'10" senior Nick O'Connor (7.7 p.p.g., 159 assists), who brought defensive pressure, steady point production, and the ability to deliver the ball in Loyola's high-powered offense. At one forward stood 6'4" junior Rich Kelly (13.6 p.p.g., 12 r.p.g.), an all-around performer in the paint. At the other stood 6'1" All-State senior Mark D. Mitchell (19.8 p.p.g.), a pure shooter whose pull-up jump-shooting from long range was a staple of Loyola's run-and-gun offense. Manning the high post was 6'6" All-Area senior center Mark S. Mitchell (14.5 p.p.g., 13 r.p.g.), a selfless leader whose prowess on the boards helped key the fast-break game. A strong, deep bench more than held its own. Juniors John Cushing (7 p.p.g.) and Frank Mangan (8.5 p.p.g.) contributed major minutes, sometimes as starters, as did Hank Hyde, Tom Magee, Denny Doyle, Mark Rahner, Bob Wolf, Mike Klein, George Egan, and Mike Kemper. Dennis Quinn, Bob Schmalfeld, Charlie Byrne, Pat Hackett, and Jim McNulty ably filled out the supporting cast. Loyola's heavyweights blazed through the regular season in barnstorming fashion, lighting up gyms across the Chicago basketball landscape. The Ramblers rolled into the Catholic League playoffs with a 22-5 record, with two of their losses coming at the hands of North Section champion, Fenwick. After a monster win over Leo in the Catholic League quarterfinals, the semifinal showdown tilt with Fenwick was all that stood between the Ramblers and the title game. Alas, Fenwick had too many answers on defense, and Loyola lost in a close game, 63-58 to end its high-octane run through the Catholic League. Post-season disappointments notwithstanding, the 1968 Basketball Team forged a unique record of accomplishment that has stood the test of time. Most of its scoring records remain etched in Loyola's record books, seemingly untouchable. It endures as one of the pre-eminent teams in the history of Loyola basketball, its place among the elite assured.

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