By Manny Nunez
Since the early 1990’s, Loyola Marymount has gone through countless cycles of frustration. Just three times have Lions finished second in the West Coast Conference, and just once in 2006. That same year they were a layup away from making it to the NCAA Tournament; consequently though, the Lions have been seeking consistency from within the program and are tired of being talked about as the one that housed Hank Gathers and what his legacy has left.
As the seventh coach since Paul Westhead left the Lions at the end of the 1989-90 campaign, Coach Mike Dunlap is looking to find talent that can make an impact right away, as he may have found his pieces through city college talent. Evan Payne was the only player in double figures last yearat 18 ppg., but this time around three Lions, all of which are transfers, have begun to make an immediate impact.
Brandon Brown, Steven Haney, and Adam Jacko have given the Lions a more diversified offensive attack as they have started 7-5 this season. Brown, a transfer from Phoenix College, dominated that program in his two years. He scored over 1600 points, earned Player of the Year honors in the National Junior College Athletics Association in Division II, and won a national title in his last year. All that expertise he has brought to the Lions as he leads the team in scoring. Currently, he leads the Lions at 13.7 points and 5.9 assists per game.
He is joined by Adom Jacko, from Chaffey College in California, also Jacko has junior college tournament experience, playing in back-to-back final fours. He was also an All-American and a scoring threat, averaging over 60 percent from the field. As, a 6-8 forward, he shoots 50.4 percent from the floor and gives Dunlap a legitimate inside threat.
Steven Haney, a transfer from Central Florida, rounds up the top three scorers as the key three-point shooter. He has already accrued three times as many minutes as he did in his lone year with the Golden Knights.
LMU entered conference play on Monday night with a winning record for the sixth time in seven years. However, the trip to the Pacific Northwest in still a daunting task as Gonzaga’s defense throttled the Lions quickly as the Bulldogs took a 40-24 halftime lead in holding LMU to 25 percent in the first half as the Zags coasted to a 85-62 win. It was almost the opposite two nights earlier when Portland hit 14-of-33 triples in an 87-60 decision.
While most of the non-conference wins were not against high level opponents, when you are trying to build a team concept and a chemistry, being selective helps and Dunlap needs to see success breed a trust among so many new players. The important thing is the team is beginning to build a bit of chemistry, despite the two deflating blow outs in the north.
To expect Loyola Marymount to turn things around overnight is not going to happen as the WCC continues to develop toughness and depth every year. However, the Lions are showing that their preseason ranking could very well be misleading. Picked to be last in the conference, there much better talent for LMU in only Dunlap’s second year to even be considered in the bottom four. Getting back to southern California for a date with Pepperdine Jan. 2 before the first two outings in McCarthey Canter against St. Mary’s and Pacific is certainly a positive.