Loyola-Chicago's first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 1985 is being credited to its chaplain — a 98-year-old, basketball-loving nun who prays for the Ramblers.
"The way she prayed just stuck out," Loyola-Chicago's Clayton Custer says in an interview with ESPN, recalling how he met the nun, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, in 2015. "In the middle of her prayer there's a scouting report mixed in. She tells us who their best players are and what to watch out for. Sometimes she'll pray for the referee to make the right calls. And at the end, she'll literally pray that we come out on top."
"She's the biggest Loyola basketball fan I've ever met in my life," junior guard Marques Townes was quoted as saying.
The nun, who has been the team's chaplain since 1994, has been inducted into Loyola-Chicago's athletic hall of fame, according to SB Nation.
On Thursday, after Loyola-Chicago defeated Miami, former President Barack Obama tweeted, "Congrats to @LoyolaChicago and Sister Jean for a last-second upset - I had faith in my pick!"
A former basketball player before becoming a nun, she was once a grade school teacher and ran girls sports programs. From 1961 to 1990, she taught at Catholic Mundelein College which later merged with Loyola, which she then joined as an academic advisor before being appointed the chaplain.
She's highly valued by the players. "Having her here blessing our team and blessing our coaching staff, giving us a warm prayer before the game, having her bless the team right before the game, it just means so much," Townes was quoted as saying.
Journalists are lining up to interview the nun.
After Thursday's win, she told The New York Times, "We prayed that God would help us. We said we would do our part and make our shots, but we needed God's assistance. We said we were going into this game with great confidence and that we wanted to win this game so badly. We said we would be careful of our shots, careful not to foul."
Sister Jean, who lives in the dorms on campus, is known for her passion for the school. And that's her office, too.
"Anyone can walk in there, not just us," freshman forward Cameron Krutwig was quoted as saying. "She's not just for basketball, obviously. She's for the whole university. She's a celebrity around the university and everyone loves her."
Loyola-Chicago and Syracuse, both 11 seeds, are the lowest ranked teams to make it to the Sweet 16 in this year's tournament.
Loyola-Chicago defeated 6-seed Miami and 3-seed Tennessee to make it to the Sweet 16. Next it will play 7-seed Nevada on Thursday.