One year after nearly leaving, Doyle gets his senior night amid a tight MVC Player of the Year race

Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com

After Loyola lost to Wichita State in the 2016 MVC quarterfinals, Milton Doyle had a decision ahead of him. With only a few credits remaining toward his degree, he could forgo his final year of eligibility to go pro, even if it meant playing in the D-League or overseas.

Initially, Doyle was even supposed to be honored on senior night with last year’s class.

But the 6’4″ guard from Chicago faced a difficult truth: I’m not good enough.

Scouts weren’t interested in Doyle after an underwhelming junior season that followed an injury-riddled sophomore year. To get a chance professionally, he realized he needed to take advantage of his final year of eligibility.

“Some people want to be showered with compliments instead of being blessed with the truth,” Loyola coach Porter Moser told The Catch and Shoot. “Those conversations aren’t fun conversations. Who likes being told they’re not good enough? Milt had a choice in how he handled the truth, and how he handled the truth was he got in the weight room harder than he ever has, he worked on his game harder than he ever has.”

The results speak for themselves. Statistically, Doyle is posting career numbers all over whether you’re new school or old school. Points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and turnovers. Offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, rebounding rate and steal rate.

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After failing to even earn all-MVC honorable mention last year, Doyle is a lock for the all-league team next week and could even win conference player of the year. He’s third in Kenpom’s MVC Player of the Year entering his final home game Wednesday against Drake, trailing Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie and Darral Willis. Illinois State’s Paris Lee and Deontae Hawkins along with Northern Iowa’s Jeremy Morgan, the preseason player of the year, are also in the mix.

If Doyle wins the award, he will be Loyola’s first conference player of the year since the 1986-87 season, when Andre Moore received the honor in the Horizon League.

“First team is a big goal, but player of the year is something every player wants no matter what level you’re on,” Doyle said. “That’s something you should strive for no matter what you’re doing — to be the best. It’s the biggest goal other than winning a championship. I think I deserve it. But with these last couple of games, I’ve got to do a little bit more to get it.”

Doyle’s success has not only helped Loyola gain more respect around the Valley, but it’s also changed how Chicago views the program.

When Doyle committed in 2012, Loyola had not had a Chicago native on its roster since David Bailey left in 2003. Now the Ramblers have another local product in budding junior forward Donte Ingram and bring in two of Illinois’ top two high school seniors next year in Christian Negron and Cameron Krutwig.

“Milt was the first one to say yes,” Moser said. “So there have been a lot of eyes on him. Some people were saying Loyola’s too hard, don’t go there. You know what? Milton Doyle’s got a degree from one of the top universities, and he’s paved the way and Donte is right behind him paving the way for other Chicago kids to stay close to home.”

Doyle arrived at Loyola with high expectations as a Kansas transfer with an all-city and all-state career at Marshall High School.

The expectations only heightened as he became the first MVC player to win MVC Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year since Creighton’s Doug McDermott. The cherry was The Shot: a deep buzzer-beater to beat Bradley in Loyola’s first-ever Arch Madness game.

“Milt came in with such a splash,” Moser said. “Well, then the next two years were kind of riddled with injuries. To have this redemption this year by putting in the work, what a lesson in life. He put in the work more than he ever has, and it’s paying off.”

Even after the past two years’ struggles, Doyle ranks 10th on Loyola’s all-time scoring list, 6th in assists, 11th in rebounds and 8th in free throws, 3-pointers, steals and blocks entering his last few collegiate games.

“That’s one thing I always wanted to do, I always wanted to set a legacy where I could be remembered and mentioned with some of the great players that’s all over the walls and pictures everywhere,” Doyle said. “I just wanted to be one of those guys.”

One year after nearly leaving, that’s a goal he’s achieved.

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