When Milton Doyle was redshirting his freshman season at Loyola, he told his mother he wanted to drop out and work at McDonald’s.
“Boy, you’ve got too much talent,” his mother, Birdie Green, told him, petitioning him to stay in school.
Over the next four years, Doyle used that talent to blossom into one of Loyola’s all-time greats, and the 6’4″ guard earned All-MVC First Team honors Tuesday after averaging 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists during his senior season.
Instead of working at McDonald’s, Doyle expects to land a pro contract when he leaves Loyola, even if it’s in the D-League or overseas. Playing professional basketball was always his dream, but now it’s also a responsibility because 23-year-old Milton Doyle is now Milton Doyle Sr., the father of two toddlers: Milton Jr., 2, and Makynli, 18 months.
“It matured me more,” Doyle says of fatherhood. “It made me think about further down the line, my future, way more than I was thinking about before. It gave me more motivation to do better with basketball.”
Loyola coach Porter Moser says Doyle’s improvement since last season began with the best offseason of his career. The Chicago native added muscle to become more effective driving the lane and on defense in addition to working on his skills.
“Sometimes young guys, they come out of high school and it’s about themselves,” Moser says. “And I think [when he became a father] he realized the education, the basketball career — everything got more serious.”
And, congrats to @MDLU35 the first #Loyola player to ever earn @ValleyHoopsFirst Team honors! https://t.co/68dgdEMouP #MVCHoops #OnwardLU pic.twitter.com/SmdPgzrR2n
— Loyola Men's Basketball (@RamblersMBB) February 28, 2017
While basketball is one way to support a family, it took Doyle some time to realize the importance of a college degree. Moser and Green teamed up to help him stay committed to academics and Loyola.
“We did some teamwork on that,” Green says. “There were points where he was really ready to give up. I know Milton is smart, but I know he’s lazy when it comes to schoolwork, too. I didn’t want to let him go [to Loyola] and be setting him up for a downfall.”
Although Doyle’s redshirt year in particular was tough, the plan ultimately worked as he graduated in December after nearly leaving to play professionally last spring, and Moser says his personal growth off the court “is one of the biggest climbs of any player I’ve coached.” The person who used to sometimes avoid eye contact when shaking your hand now takes his hat off and gives you a half smile when he walks in a room, Moser notes.
One story from the end of last summer stands out to Moser.
A mother from Colorado preparing to move her daughter into Loyola happened to see Doyle in his school gear on the “L,” not knowing who he was initially. She struck up a conversation about the university and Chicago. Then, Doyle offered to help move her daughter into her dorm.
Doyle never let on to Moser what happened, and Moser never would have known had the mother not reached out to the coach.
“Sometimes as a parent, life becomes bigger than about yourself,” Moser says, “and Milton for sure has transformed into that.”
Some people might panic at the thought of having one, let alone two, children while in college. Although both pregnancies were accidental with separate girlfriends, Doyle says he took fatherhood in stride and never considered options like abortion or adoption.
Initially, he was afraid of telling his mom the news. He says he spoke so quickly the first time telling her that he had to repeat himself. His mother was shocked but remained her son’s main support system, helping out during the pregnancies and since the births while Doyle completed his academic and athletic careers at Loyola.
“The message was: don’t get nobody pregnant. He turns around and had two of them, so I was like, Oh Lord,” Green remembers with a laugh.
Doyle says he learned everything he knows about how to parent from Green, who raised him and his three brothers mostly on her own. His dad was in and out of his life growing up, although the two maintain a positive relationship.
Doyle and his family see the proof of his success as a father in how he and his daughter interact when they meet outside the locker room after home games.
“When she sees him, her eyes light up and so does his,” Green says.
That’s not to say fatherhood has always been easy. Sometimes the hard parts are physical.
Just like any other dad, Doyle would have to wake up in the middle of the night to get his daughter a bottle.
Unlike any other dad, he would interrupt his rest after a day filled with schoolwork and basketball practice to do so.
“Just trying to balance it and maintain some sanity at the same time,” Green says. “Of course I help out a lot and try to help balance things for him because I want him to keep his focus as much as possible. But he’s pretty much handled it well.”
Sometimes the hard parts of fatherhood are emotional.
He does not get to see Milton Jr., who lives with Doyle’s previous girlfriend, often but cherishes his visits, especially now that his namesake has taken a liking to basketball.
“He always watches the games,” says Doyle. “Every time I see him that’s all he wants to do: shoot a basketball.”
Whenever his basketball career ends, Doyle hopes to put his sociology degree to use with a non-profit youth organization.
With a diploma and an all-conference nod under his belt, the final goal for Doyle in his Loyola career is to win a conference tournament championship and reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time. But it will be a tall task in St. Louis this weekend to slay MVC giants Illinois State and Wichita State, which each posted 17-1 records in the regular season and only lost to each other.
Either way, soon enough Doyle will remove his Loyola jersey for the final time.
“I’ve been here so long that it’s about time anyway,” the fifth-year senior says with a chuckle. “I think I’m ready for whatever it is out there.”
Whatever awaits, it’ll be better than McDonald’s.