BALTIMORE — Erik Etherly could have come to Loyola from the start. Jimmy Patsos sure wanted him. For whatever reason, the Alexandria native landed at Northeastern for a season before boomeranging back to Baltimore.
It wasn't a fun season to sit out. The Greyhounds stumbled through a 13-17 campaign, and Etherly received regular reminders of how things could have turned out from his new coach.
"Every time something would happen, he'd walk down to the end of the bench where I was sitting and say 'See, see, you should have come here in the first place. You'd be playing right now and wouldn't be sitting and not being able to do anything about it,' " Etherly recalled.
Last year, Etherly got to play. This year, he got to do something about Loyola's fortunes, leading the Greyhounds to their second NCAA tournament bid and a date with second-seeded Ohio State (27-7) in Pittsburgh on Thursday in a round-of-64 game in the East regional.
Etherly was Loyola's first first-team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference selection in four years, pacing the Greyhounds in points (13.5 per game), rebounds (7.5), blocks (1.4) and field goal percentage (.531). Yet how he's become a star is particularly noteworthy.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pounder looks like he could be a wing player despite his strong play in the post. Little wonder Patsos figured Etherly wouldn't be an inside player when he first recruited him out of Annandale High School.
"I thought he was going to be a three and not a four, so what he's done around the basket and getting fouled [stands out]," Patsos said. "He's done more dirty work than I thought he was capable of, and it's made him a better player, and I'm appreciative of the dirty work he's done."
For his part, Etherly's glad to be close to home. He took official visits to Loyola before Northeastern, and ultimately found himself drawn to the Colonial Athletic Association school.
He was taken aback, though, by a year in the Huskies' methodical system.
Northeastern coach Bill Coen has built a solid program in Boston around the tight flex offense preferred by his old boss at Boston College, Al Skinner. Etherly, accustomed to an up-tempo style, played only 48 minutes in a dozen games and left after one year.
Patsos, whose Loyola teams have emulated the up-tempo style of his mentor, former Maryland coach Gary Williams, was eager to belatedly get Etherly into the fold.
"To this day, I still don't know if I took the visits in a different order where I would have ended up," Etherly said.
However it unfolded, Loyola is ecstatic Etherly is around. He was the most outstanding player of the Metro Atlantic tournament, helping to lock up the Greyhounds' first NCAA visit since 1994.
"I think he's just playing hard every possession this year," guard Robert Olson said. "It's hard, especially for him since he's an undersized four, but he's so athletic he can just jump over everybody. I think the fact he's rebounding so much has really helped us. We all know he can score and dunk, but he's rebounded well, and he's played defense when we needed him to."
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