Loyola-Chicago has an edge in the NCAA tournament most teams can’t match: A 98-year-old, basketball-loving nun who lifts the team up, and also gives them harsh words. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt has been with the team all season, now she’s going dancing along with them.
Sister Jean’s prayers must’ve helped the team on Thursday, as Loyola-Chicago upset No. 6 Miami with an incredible buzzer-beater three to win 64-62. After the game, Sister Jean was interviewed, and it was everything. She said that in her pregame prayer, she even asked God to help with good officiating!
Sister Jean has been the team’s chaplain since 1994, and is a mainstay on campus. The Chicago Tribune caught up with the team, and Sister Jean, as they were preparing for the NCAA tournament.
“She’s like another coach,” senior guard Donte Ingram said. “The first game (as a freshman), it caught me off guard. I thought she was just going to pray. She prayed, but then she starts saying, ‘You’ve got to box out and watch out for 23.’
Sister Jean’s impact on the team is so great that she’s been inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame — and even has her own bobblehead. She’s known for welcoming back players with open arms after losses, but also texting them with advice, regardless of the outcome.
After Loyola beat Drake, 72-57, on Feb. 7, she wrote to Ingram: “Donte, keep getting those rebounds; that action helps to add more points to the game; keep making those threes as you did last night even though those Bulldogs were always on your back.”
Her impact on the team extends beyond pregame prayers and offering basketball advice — Sister Jean is a critical part of the program and how it mentors athletes. She’ll often speak to student-athletes about their personal and spiritual growth, as well as answer any questions they might have.
They might not be favored to go far, but Sister Jean’s motto is simple:
“It’s one game at a time for us.”
Now we’ll see if they can do it.
UPDATE: Sister Jean is in the house!
Even Barack Obama loves Sister Jean: