Loyola Chicago instantly became the darling of March on the opening afternoon of the 2018 NCAA tournament with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to stun sixth-seeded Miami. The hero was Donte Ingram, a senior from Chicago who stepped into his game-winner from the edge of the mid-court logo and drilled it.
But the real star of the show?
That’s right, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. Nobody loved Ingram’s buzzer-beater more than the 98-year-old nun who is the glue that holds this Loyola team together:
Though she’s nowhere near as tall as the players — or many other students, for that matter — Schmidt cuts a large figure on the 16,000-student campus located on Chicago’s north side. She’s a prominent part of the team’s pregame huddles, is featured on videos on the scoreboard during the game and even has her own bobblehead and personalized maroon-and-gold sneakers (“Sister” is stitched on the back of one shoe, “Jean” on the other).
To call her a mascot would be selling Schmidt short, because she provides plenty of spiritual and emotional support. Her motto of “Worship, work, win” is featured in the athletic department’s weight room and she sends both coaches and players individual emails with her observations after each game. One player told DNAInfo in 2012 that Schmidt was one of the things that stopped him from being a homesick 17-year-old.
Schmidt played basketball when she was younger and has now been a nun for over 80 years, many of which she spent attending every Loyola basketball game. Her first extended absence came this season when she missed eight games after falling and breaking her hip.
Sister Jean made her way onto the court after the game, and players ran over to embrace her. Ingram gave her a hug after his on-court postgame interview, before jogging back to the locker room to celebrate with teammates.
“She has meant so much to me personally,” Ingram later said. “She is there before every game. She’s saying a prayer before every game. After the game, she sends a general email to the team. And then at the end of the email, it’ll be individualized: ‘Hey, Donte, you did this, you rebounded well tonight. Even though they were out there to get you, you still came through for the team.’ She’s just so special, her spirit. She’s just so bright, and she means so much to the city of Chicago and Loyola obviously and the team.”
One player even reportedly told Sister Jean after the buzzer beater, “that was all you.”
Even Barack Obama gave her a shoutout on Twitter:
Sister Jean herself also gave an interview to Tru TV:
“Thank God,” she said of her message to the team. “Thank God you did it because we knew we would do it. And when we were in the locker room ahead of the game we just knew that we would do this. Our team is so great and they don’t care who makes the points as long as we win the game. And I said we were going to get the big ‘W’ up there and we did.”
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