2018 Loyola Ramblers' Champion Lucas Williamson Narrating New Documentary About Trailblazing 1963 Team
CHICAGO (CBS) -- We continue to celebrate Black History Month with a story linking the past to the present at Loyola University.
CBS 2 Sports Director Marshall Harris reports one student-athlete is helping to educate others about a season to remember for the Ramblers.
Whitney Young alum Lucas Williamson was a key freshman reserve when Loyola's basketball team made its magical run to the 2018 Final Four.
Since then the now grad student and captain has found his voice, both on and off the court.
"When you first get here, you just learn about the '63 team through osmosis," Williamson said.
Fifty-five years before Williamson played on a Loyola Final Four team, the Ramblers won the national championship playing in the midst of the civil rights movement.
The 1962-63 ramblers had four Black starters, and beat a Mississippi State team that previously wasn't allowed to play against Black players in the famed "Game of Change."
"Now, getting to know the story more intimately, you learn like smaller details. You learn stories about when they had to go travel down South, when they had to play Houston, when they had to go play at hostile crowds," Williamson said. "Little details like that that make you have a different type of perspective, and different approach and emotion toward the final outcome."
It's all explored in "The Loyola Project," a new documentary from director Patrick Creadon, two and a half years in the making. It's narrated by Williamson.
"He's like, 'It just feels a little bit better when the narrator of the film has a lot to do with the story itself.' So he was like, 'Hey do you want to give the narration thing a go?' And I was like, 'You know, sure,'" Williamson said.
Creadon not only stuck with Williamson to voice the film, he had him help write it.
"This story is a story that should be told," Williamson said. "For example, myself, I grew up in Chicago. There's no reason why a young Black kid growing up in Chicago shouldn't know that the '63 team was a trailblazing team that I benefitted directly from. I mean, they broke the unwritten rule that you can only play a certain amount of Black players at a certain amount of time," he said.
When COVID hit, production of the documentary didn't stop, but instead of narrating in a studio, Williamson had to move his voice work to a more intimate location, his closet.
"I had never done something like this before," he said. "I'm used to getting criticism from the coaching staff and stuff like that. So it wasn't anything for them to say, 'Dude, we need to do this over again, or we need to do this, or we're looking for something a little like this.' I'm like, 'Okay let's just keep going, keep going, keep going; trial and error, and we just figure it out."
The journalism graduate has given this story a voice well beyond his campus. Now Williamson wants the film to serve as vehicle for further change.
"My hope is that people don't watch this and say, 'Oh, that was a good story,' and then turn it off, and then just continue about their day," Williamson said. "We should be having these tougher harder conversations to grow as a society, and I hope since this is a sports story, it's a little easier to start to ease into those other types of conversations."
"The Loyola Project" debuts Monday night at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. There will be a screening on Loyola's campus Friday at Gentile Arena.
What's next for Williamson? He coyly said that's the million dollar question. Right now, he's focused on getting Loyola back to the big dance on the court.
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