There were plenty of reasons why Dylon Cormier decided to play basketball for Loyola.
Academics, proximity to home and early playing time were all factors in the Cardinal Gibbons combo guard's choice. But Cormier's relationship with Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos was perhaps the most crucial piece of the puzzle.
"Me and him, we clicked from the get-go," Cormier said. "That's my man right there. We think the same way. We're the same people. … In practice, he's just as fired up as I am about the game. Coach is one of the main reasons I came here. He cares about it just as much as I do."
The trust between player and coach was evident throughout the 2010-11 season. Cormier started 27 of 30 games, averaging 8.1 points and three rebounds and quickly emerging as one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's top freshmen.
For Cormier, a Baltimore Sun All-Metro player at a Baltimore college, there were undoubtedly high expectations heading into his first season.
"And he came close to fulfilling them," Patsos said. "His ability to play defense -- he covered the other team's top scoring guard. Let me tell you – he didn't play any defense [in high school]. He was a scorer and a point guard in high school. We were 0-3 in the games he didn't play when he had mono. So that's just how you can see what he did for our team. He was good defensively – better than what I thought he was going to be."
There were certainly some eye-opening moments for Cormier in his introduction to college basketball. There were plenty of highlights, like a 20-point performance against UMBC. Then there were experiences at the other end of the spectrum, like Loyola's 99-75 loss to Georgetown.
"We were in it for a little while, but they got the better of us in the second half," said Cormier, who scored 11 points against the Hoyas. "As a freshman starting point guard that first year, it was new to me. I was the new kid on the block. Everybody else has been through it. That's difficult, just trying to get it done."
Patsos, who plans to start Cormier again at the 1 this season, said he would like the sophomore to be more assertive offensively this season, and continue developing as a defender. He's also counting on Cormier to continue serving as Loyola's top recruiter. Cormier has emerged as the Greyhounds' unofficial ambassador to other Baltimore players.
"I think that [former St. Frances point guard] R.J. Williams is here because of Dylon as much as anybody," Patsos said. "I think [former City center and Xavier transfer] Jordan Latham is here [in part because of him]. We had to do what we had to do in recruiting them, but so did Dylon. He gets active in the recruiting process. He tells them what he really likes about Loyola and playing in the league. He loves the league. He's just a great guy."
Said Cormier: "My approach to them is just tell them it's close to home, and on the court we're going to have a good time. That's what I told R.J., that's what I told Jordan. There's nothing like being home where everyone knows who you are. Jimmy takes good care of us, it's a good school and it's a good look."
Loyola, which finished 15-15 last season (including a 10-8 mark in the MAAC), seems primed to make a jump in the conference standings this year. Leading scorer Shane Walker is back, along with top rebounder Erik Etherly, MAAC Sixth Man of the Year J'hared Hall, MAAC All-Rookie team member Justin Drummond and valuable rotation players like guard Robert Olson, forward Anthony Winbush and forward Julius Brooks. Williams and Montrose Christian guard Tyler Hubbard are expected to be impact newcomers. And in the center of it all is Cormier, who has high hopes for his second year.
"This is the best team I've seen in years at Loyola," Cormier said. "We'll be tough to play. We're [one of] the biggest, strongest teams in the league this year. I'm real excited about this season. We've got a lot more to show."
The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the 16 best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.
U.S. Presswire photo of Dylon Cormier / Dec. 18, 2010