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1963 Loyola team gets Hall of Fame first

The 1963 national champions called Alumni Gym home. The Ramblers defeated Tennessee Tech Mississippi State Illinois Duke Cincinnati wtitle. |

The 1963 national champions called Alumni Gym home. The Ramblers defeated Tennessee Tech, Mississippi State, Illinois, Duke and Cincinnati to win the title. | Photos courtesy of Loyola

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Updated: April 2, 2013 10:20PM



The legacy of Loyola’s 1963 NCAA champion basketball team will add one more chapter in November when it becomes the first team to be enshrined in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

The team remains the only one from Illinois to win the NCAA national championship, but its greater impact came as the first team featuring four African American starters and for its role in shaping the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.

``The induction of our team into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor for all of us,’’ said Les Hunter, who was a center on the team. ``Loyola helped tear down the color barrier in college basketball, and our national championship game against Cincinnati, which was the first nationally televised NCAA title game, showed that the brand of black basketball was exciting, and it provided for more exposure and recruiting for future players.

``We are very proud and humbled by this great honor.’’

The team featured All-American Jerry Harkness, one of four African American starters who teamed with South Side native John Egan on a squad known as the ``Iron Fire,’’ coached by George Ireland. They led the nation in scoring averaging 92.3 points per game and won their first 20 games in gaining the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament bid.

The team endured racial bigotry in the South, but it may be remembered most for its second round tournament game against the all-white team from Mississippi State, who had to defy a state law barring competition against integrated teams to play the Ramblers. The game became known as the Game of Change, helping break Mississippi’s centuries-old segregation laws.

Others who will be inducted Nov. 24 in Kansas City include Tom McMillen (Maryland); Bill Walton and Marques Johnson (UCLA); Bob Hopkins (Grambling State); coaches Rollie Massimino (Villanova) and Gene Keady (Purdue). Former coach George Raveling and George Killian from basketball’s international governing board FIBA also will be inducted.



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