Team preview: Loyola (Md.)

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

One of the best rebuilding jobs in the country is underway at Loyola College and Jimmy Patsos is already seeing the benefits.

Patsos, who took over a program that lost 31 straight games and went 1-27 in 2003-04, led the Greyhounds to their first winning season since 1993-1994 and was rewarded in July with a two-year contract extension through 2010-11.

But don't think he's resting on his laurels.

Patsos, who spent 13 seasons as an assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland, knows the Greyhounds have a long way to go before they are the perennial MAAC contender he envisions.

"The next jump is the hardest jump," said Patsos, whose team won one less game last season than the four previous seasons combined.

An infusion of talent has been the biggest key to Loyola's resurgence. Patsos recruited great players to Maryland for Williams and has brought better players to Baltimore since being hired in 2004.

The Greyhounds' focus this season will be on playing better defense. Despite its record last season, Loyola still gave up more points per game (78.1 ppg) than it scored (76.9 ppg).

"The key for us is to keep our offense where it is and to improve our defense," said Patsos, who is also intent on winning a road game in New York to send a message to potential recruits that the Greyhounds are for real.

Although Loyola's players have embraced Patsos' system, the graduation of guard Andre Collins (26.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.7 apg), whose scoring ranked second in the MAAC and fourth in the country, leaves a giant void on offense.

Collins, a transfer from Maryland, starred in his only season with the Greyhounds, setting a school record for points in a season (731) and leading the team in scoring in every game. In addition to the accolades Collins earned on the court, the first-team All-MAAC selection who is playing professionally in Italy, also brought the program media attention and helped drum up student interest in basketball.

"We are going to miss him and what he did for our program will never be forgotten," Patsos said. "I am forever grateful for what he did."