Sister Jean, 101, will travel with Loyola-Chicago to men’s NCAA Tournament

Loyola-Chicago has a prayer to succeed in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Sister Jean is returning to root them on.

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Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, 101, the beloved team chaplain for the Loyola-Chicago men’s basketball team that made a surprising run to the Final Four in 2018, will accompany the Ramblers for their first-round game against Georgia Tech in Indianapolis, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The Ramblers won the Missouri Valley Conference title and are the No. 8 seed in the Midwest region, ESPN reported.

Sister Jean’s status was uncertain due to COVID-19 restrictions that limited schools’ traveling parties for the tournament, the newspaper reported. She had not attended a game this season but told the Tribune last week that she wanted “to go so badly” this year and had received her COVID-19 vaccinations.

“I’m not going to run down on the court and I’m not going to cause any disturbance,” she told the Tribune.

While the nun has not been to games, she has sent emails to players on the team before every game and sometimes between games, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Then there’s a little note at the bottom, particular personal note for each one, whether he has done well -- or whether he needs to take his turn and do well,” she told the newspaper, “Or if he hasn’t been on the court, I always ask them for their support.”

Loyola-Chicago inducted Sister Jean into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame in 2017, making her the 173rd member to be enshrined. Born in San Francisco in 1919, Sister Jean played basketball in high school.

The world fell in love with Sister Jean when Chicago-Loyola put together a 14-game winning streak at the end of the regular season and the NCAA Tournament to reach the Final Four, where the Ramblers lost to Michigan, Sports Illustrated reported.

Since then, Sister Jean has been a marketing machine for the school after giving her approval to school officials to put her image on T-shirts, socks and even bobbleheads. She has also thrown out the first pitch for a Chicago Cubs baseball game at Wrigley Field and became an NCAA tournament bracket expert, according to Sports Illustrated.

Sister Jean received piles of mail and emails asking for prayers and even received a Valentine’s Day letter from a little boy saying he loved her, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Oh my gosh, when he gets to be a teenager, he’ll probably think, ‘Oh, why did I do that?’” Sister Jean told the newspaper. “But it’s from his heart.”

Media tracking company Apex Marketing Group said that there were 20,526 stories that mentioned Sister Jean in 2018, ESPN reported. By comparison, there were 5,681 stories that mentioned Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and 9,727 stories reference Kansas coach Bill Self.

“Sister Jean has risen to the top of the sports world by becoming a must-see and must-mention for sports commentators and news organizations,” Apex’s Eric Smallwood told ESPN in 2018.

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