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Members of 1963 Loyola (Ill.) national title team meet with President Obama

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While they weren’t the subjects of a movie meant to depict their experiences like the 1966 Texas Western basketball team (“Glory Road”), the 1963 Loyola (Ill.) Ramblers hold a special place in the history of college basketball. 

Head coach George Ireland’s team would win the national title that season with four African-American starters, a development that served as a catalyst for the integration of college basketball.

One of the Ramblers’ NCAA tournament games was played against a Mississippi State team that had to sneak out of its own state to play in the game. Prior to that contest Mississippi State did not participate in postseason play due to a state law that prohibited teams from playing against teams that used African-American players. 

This past December the two schools met for the first time since “The Game of Change” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tournament meeting, with surviving members of both teams honored throughout the weekend (Loyola won the game, 59-51).

On Thursday Loyola met with President Barack Obama at the White House, capping a two-day trip to the nation’s capital. Among the seven surviving players making the trip were Les Hunter, Jerry Harkness and John Egan, three of the Ramblers’ five starters in the national title game.

Harkness said Obama put him at ease calling him “Cap,” and that they discussed being left-handers who love basketball.

Harkness said the exchange prompted another former player, guard Ron Miller, to ask Obama: “You’re left-handed, but can you go to your right? Because Jerry (Harkness) could never go to his right.”

Obama, Harkness said, replied: “I can’t either, but we’re just so fast that they can’t keep up, even though they know which side we’re going at.”

Current head coach Porter Moser made the trip, as did Judy Van Dyck (the late coach Ireland’s daughter) and university president Rev. Michael Garanzini. On Wednesday the traveling party was led on a tour of U.S. Capitol

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.