After guiding Loyola to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994, life has been undeniably good for Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos.
Between speaking engagements, playing in charity golf tournaments and making the occasional radio or television appearance, Patsos has been a busy man since the Greyhounds fell to Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. But basketball has remained the No. 1 priority, and there's plenty of optimism on Cold Spring Lane for another big year.
Patsos has welcomed six freshmen to Loyola this summer: St. Frances center Josh Forney, John Carroll forward Jarred Jones, Gonzaga (D.C.) forward Will Rassman, Westwind Prep (Ariz.) guard Damion Rashford, Polytech (Del.) wing Eric Laster and Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) walk-on point guard Sean Tuohy Jr. (the adopted brother of Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher).
Those six freshmen will join sophomore point guard R.J. Williams (St. Frances), junior combo guard Dylon Cormier (Cardinal Gibbons), senior wing Bobby Olson, senior power forward Erik Etherly, junior center Jordan Latham (City), senior forward Anthony Winbush, senior center Julius Brooks and redshirt freshman shooting guard Tyler Hubbard on the Greyhounds' 2012-13 roster.
Patsos spoke to The Sun this week about Loyola's incoming class and the team's prospects for the upcoming season.
What has changed for you since last season, specifically on the recruiting trail?
We're still recruiting the same type of kid, still have summer school, still have summer camp. It's just doing your job. It's nice, but when the new kids got here June 5, that's officially a new year – that's how we look at it. We're moving on. It's nice, we own it, and that's great. But you've got to worry about the next year with the way basketball is now going. We have a new team. Shane Walker is playing in Greece and J'Hared Hall graduated. I went to [former player] Andre Collins' wedding. [Former Greyhounds forward] Michael Tuck is still playing in England. By the time June comes around, you've got all the new guys. So you get five new [scholarship] guys, and that's a lot. I'm worrying about getting those guys acclimated to the school. This summer was also different because we could have practices, so that was nice.
Let's start with the incoming freshmen. Josh Forney, the center from St. Frances, was one of your first commitments. What do you see in him?
He's got great size. He will most likely redshirt, unless something drastic changes. He's a good player – reminds me of Rick Mahorn. He's kind of a bruiser, a thick kid. He's an inside guy, a hard-working type of guy. But with Julius Brooks and Jordan Latham at the 5, we wouldn't want to waste the year. He'll most likely redshirt – knock on wood that will happen. But so far he looks good.
The other local guy is Jarred Jones from John Carroll. What type of role do you envision for him?
He's going to play some 3 and some 4. He's like Erik Etherly. He's kind of an inside player with a lot of guard skills, so that's good. He's done fine when we had some practices. He's just catching up to the speed of the game. But obviously, coming from the Baltimore Catholic League and being a first-team [BCL and Baltimore Sun All-Metro] player, he's coming prepared from the high school level. He's had great high school coaching and it shows. In practice, he was ready to go. So that's a credit to his league and his coach. He was good; a guy who can help us off the bench.
Will Rassman had a strong senior year at Gonzaga. What do you think of him so far?
Rassman is similar to Jarred Jones. Remember, freshmen should be concerned with the invisible stats. I want freshmen to take charges, play good defense and get deflections, things like that. Hustle plays. Lots of times freshmen are confused and think, 'I'll be the man right away.' You play as a freshman for invisible stats. Will Rassman is that kind of guy. Coming from Gonzaga, it's like Jarred Jones from John Carroll. Will Rassman starting at Gonzaga and Jarred Jones as a first-team All-Baltimore Catholic League [player]. Both are great programs. Those guys are going to play some minutes this year.
Laster was Delaware's player of the year. What has impressed you about him?
He's young but he's got talent. Watching a few practices, he's a late bloomer but has a lot of talent, and he can score. He's a scorer. Scorers have a funny way of getting on the court. He's a 2/3. Rashford and Laster are 2/3s, both scorers. We'll see who can adjust quicker. Damion Rashford played in Canada and Laster is from Delaware, a small state. Both have talent, both can score. I'm interested to see which of those guys can play. I need another scorer.
Rashford was a late addition, but he was a guy who could have prepped and potentially landed at a bigger school. How did you land him?
[Assistant coach] Greg Manning did a great job on him. We recruit as a staff, but Greg really hung in there. Shane James played here and is his AAU coach up in Canada. Shane's a guy who knows our system. All of these kids came not just because of the basketball situation, but because it's a good school. Damion, being from Toronto, likes [big] cities. So we'll see.
Tuohy is the last member of the class. What's the expectation of him?
S.J. Tuohy is going to come in and redshirt. S.J. can play. He can score and he's got good bloodlines – his dad was a player [at Ole Miss]. He's got to physically catch up to the speed of our team. Remember that we play fast. Everyone wants to play fast, but not everyone can play fast. But we're an experienced group. So some will play, some will redshirt. But we think it's a very solid group.
How do you see the lineup shaking out to start the season?
Jordan Latham is going to start, [along with] R.J., Dylon, Bobby and Erik. Winbush is your sixth man. Julius Brooks is an inside presence with experience. He better produce this year. We need him to play backup center. Jarred Jones will play forward. And then you've got Tyler Hubbard. Tyler has worked extremely hard. He's a great shooter and really did a great job for us last year on the scout team. You find out a lot about a guy on the scout team. We fell in love with Byron Mouton on the scout team [at Maryland]. … So Tyler has really improved. He's been around all summer, keeps showing up for workouts. He's just a hard worker. Coming from Montrose Christian, he's ready to go.
Losing [Justin] Drummond, [who transferred to Toledo], we need someone to make shots. You hope Latham can take Shane [Walker's] place. Winbush, obviously, getting hurt last year killed us. We couldn't beat Ohio State with Winbush out. But if Hubbard can score, great. He can be like Marquis Sullivan, who scored 1,000 points for us. He's only a freshman next year because he redshirted. Tyler probably works the hardest of the guys trying [to make a jump].
What have you seen from some of your veterans so far? What strides have they made?
Jordan is in better shape. Erik is always a good player. He's shooting a little bit further out. He didn't have to do a lot [different]. Olson is just tremendous. When your best player is your hardest worker, you're in great shape. Doc Rivers taught me that. His best players were his hardest workers – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen. Dylon, Erik and Bobby are our best players and our hardest workers. We'll see what happens with R.J. and Dylon. They're on an overseas trip to Belgium and Amsterdam. They're going to be good. They play six games and Greg Manning is the coach. R.J.'s got to score a little more. He had a great year. Hopefully R.J. steps up just a little bit. Dylon and Bobby and R.J. make the team go. Jordan has to prove himself more, and Tyler Hubbard is so important. Then whichever freshman emerges – Rashford or Laster – if one of them can score, we'll be in great shape.
The biggest question is who's going to replace Drummond at the point. Drummond could score. Drummond was a good defensive player. I was sad to lose Drummond. Nobody wanted him to leave. This is the business we've chosen – it's [like in] The Godfather. It doesn't matter, but we didn't want him to leave. Justin Drummond was a great player defensively on the ball, and he was big and he could score. But you move on. You need somebody who can be the Marquis Sullivan. It'll be interesting to see how the young guys do. I'll tell you a lot more after the first two weeks of practice. But R.J., Dylon, Bobby, Erik and Latham [will start], and then Winbush is definitely the sixth man because he can play so many spots. Brooks [is the backup center], so that's seven. And then you hope Hubbard can shoot it. He works hard and does everything right, so we're excited about that.
How is your schedule shaping up for this season?
We go to Washington up in Seattle. Binghamton. UMBC. We play a team in the Hall of Fame Classic in Norfolk State, [which] won an NCAA tournament game. We're at Rhode Island. The Mount has gotten much better, and that's already a tough rivalry game. Towson has gotten much better. UMBC and Coppin are local games. Local games are always tough. We go to Memphis … a team that made the NCAA and was picked in the Top 25. We've got Bucknell at home, a team that won an NIT game. Our league is going to be tough. Manhattan is picked to win the league, and they've got a Maryland transfer [Ashton Pankey] who can play right away. It's always tough. The MAAC is always tough, but it got tougher this year.