Just after Johns Hopkins lost to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the annual Setting Ball Screens and You Might Even See a Bounce Pass Invitational — aka the D3 Hoops Classic at South Point — Jill Guise of the Hopkins sports information office was telling a story about the difficulty of balancing basketball with academics at a school such as Johns Hopkins.
She said the Blue Jays were playing at Haverford College of Pennsylvania, renowned for its liberal arts program, when somebody at the scorer’s table inquired about the meaning of the letters GR next to a couple of Johns Hopkins players in the game program.
They indicated graduate student.
“You mean like in medical school?”
No, Guise said. These players weren’t in medical school. They were studying economics.
At a school such as Johns Hopkins, it is impossible to study medicine and set ball screens at the same time. Same in the other sports.
This even holds true for the big men on the Baltimore campus who carry lacrosse sticks.
Giants of research
Johns Hopkins is one of the world’s top universities. In 2016, it spent nearly $2.5 billion on academic research and development. The John Hopkins School of Medicine is to the medical profession what Alabama is to college football — or what its own lacrosse program is to that niche sport.
The Blue Jays, who play Division I lacrosse as an affiliate member of the Big Ten, have won 44 national lacrosse championships including nine NCAA titles, second only to Syracuse’s 10.
Johns Hopkins also is pretty good in fencing.
But unlike its first opponent in the D3 Hoops Classic, the Blue Jays have yet to cut down NCAA Division III men’s basketball nets. (UW-Platteville did it four times when Bo Ryan was coach). The Blue Jays went 24-5 last season and made it to the second round of the Division III national championship tournament, which isn’t known as “Little Madness,” but should be, given its participants play only for floorburns.
Josh Loeffler is the Johns Hopkins coach. Loeffler played at Swarthmore, which is famous as the school Cass Elliott of the Mamas & the Papas thought she would attend as a sophomore (it rhymed), according to the lyrics of the folk quartet’s hit song “Creeque Alley.”
Swarthmore also is known for its five Nobel Prize winners, 11 MacArthur Foundation fellows, 30 Rhodes Scholars, 27 Truman Scholars, 10 Marshall Scholars and 201 Fulbright Grantees. It is ranked No. 3 among U.S. liberal arts schools by U.S. News and World Report.
In other words, when Johns Hopkins went looking for a new men’s basketball coach, Josh Loeffler was a good fit.
“The number one challenge is just the academic requirements, and finding guys that can get into school,” said the former director of basketball operations at Rutgers and Loyola Maryland assistant about building a program at Johns Hopkins of which its doctors, lawyers and lacrosse midfielders could be proud.
Paying it forward
There are no athletic scholarships in Division III. It costs $60,820 for one year of schooling at Johns Hopkins, and in 2018, only 8.4 percent of the 27,091 undergraduates who applied for admission were accepted. With all respect due Long Beach State, Johns Hopkins isn’t Long Beach State.
“We don’t bend admission standards for our kids who are recruited,” Loeffler said.
“We’re out there finding guys who might be getting only one B in all their high school years, and are 1,500-plus SAT guys,” he added as the Blue Jays were leaving the dressing room area following the loss to Platteville. “But these guys will become doctors and financial giants, and they’ll become lawyers and engineers.”
In November, New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg made a historic $1.8 billion commitment to Johns Hopkins — the largest-ever single contribution to a U.S. college or university. Not a lot of that money is earmarked for men’s basketball.
But if the Blue Jays ordered double cheeseburgers at the South Point Steak ‘n Shake instead of singles after setting ball screens and tossing the occasional bounce pass, one surmises there would be enough in petty cash to cover it.
A look at Johns Hopkins, considered one of the world’s greatest universities, whose basketball team competed in the D3 Hoops Classic at South Point:
— Location: Baltimore
— Established: 1876
— Endowment: $3.8 billion
— Undergraduates: 6,109
— Postgraduates: 19,042
— Did you know: Johns Hopkins has produced 22 Nobel Prize Winners, including former President Woodrow Wilson (Peace, 1919).