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Philadelphia, a proud basketball town, rallies around La Salle's renaissance season

Former La Salle star Lionel Simmons has been a fixture around the program as the Explorers have made a run to the NCAA round of 16.

Simmons, the 1990 AP Player of the Year, has been seen at La Salle's games and even traveled from Dayton, Ohio to Kansas City, Mo., and now Los Angeles as its biggest fan on this improbable winning streak.

Simmons' presence is a blazing reminder that La Salle wasn't always one of the bottom programs in Philadelphia. Led by Hall of Fame standout Tom Gola, the Explorers were NIT and NCAA champions in the 1950s. Paul Westhead coached them to tournaments in the 1970s. And Simmons rocketed them to the national rankings in The AP poll.

But mediocrity soaked in on this proud campus for years, before this scrappy bunch, which will play Wichita State in the regional semifinals, turned the tide. Now, a proud basketball city watches its every move.