Jan. 15, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Good things come to those who show up and compete.
So it seems for Marshall men’s basketball redshirt freshman Austin Loop, who will play his first game as a Division I scholarship athlete when North Texas (9-7, 0-2) visits the Henderson Center on Thursday night for the Thundering Herd’s Conference USA home opener.
Just after the Herd (6-11, 0-2) boarded a bus to head back here from Charleston’s Yeager Airport after landing Sunday following a trip to UTSA and UTEP, coach Tom Herrion announced that he was awarding Loop a scholarship for this semester.
You could have thrown the 6-foot-4 reserve for a loop.
“I wasn’t expecting it or anything,” Loop said before the Herd’s practice Tuesday. “It really caught me off guard, surprised me a lot. I mean, that was my goal. Everybody who’s in my situation wants to work toward that, hopes for it, work up to it, but I never expected it at all.”
As the Herd has battled its way through a road-wearying schedule, Loop has gained playing time at wing guard after redshirting last season. He’s averaged 6.0 minutes and 3.5 points over 11 games.
“He hasn’t missed anything,” Herrion said. “Austin’s been here every day, both summers, every workout. He is what being a student-athlete is all about. And now he’s playing. He’s in our rotation.”
Loop was an all-Ohio first team pick in Division IV – the state’s lowest classification for basketball – at South Webster High in Scioto County. He had no Division I offers after averaging 17 points and 6.4 rebounds as a senior.
He contacted the Marshall staff and the Herd checked out Loop and offered him a walk-on spot. The 20-year-old Ohioan redshirted last season, and there was some notion that he might then transfer to play elsewhere.
It didn’t happen.
“My major school I considered was Marietta, (NCAA) Division III, and it was probably where I was going to go,” said Loop, whose 3.5 grade point average in biomechanics is the highest in Herd hoops. “It came down between there and here, and I decided here.”
Why Marshall, when he was getting nothing?
“I wanted to experience Division I basketball,” he said. “I was redshirted my freshman year. I kind of came in with the idea I was going to see what it was like, see how it went, get a feel for it, maybe transfer, and since I didn’t use the year of eligibility, then I could go to Marietta if I wanted.”
So, why did he stay?
“I liked it,” Loop said. “I just thought this was where I should be. And I really enjoyed it.”
So, he’s gone from an end-of-the-bench “practice guy” to a contributor. He’s one of the Herd’s best perimeter shooters (10-of-28 from behind the arc).
The competitor in Loop appreciated the challenge in that.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “It was a big change coming here, especially from a small division high school. I mean at the end of last year, I felt like I belonged here. After going through everything with the team, I felt I was good enough to play here.
“I know some people have no idea how hard it is. I never understood how hard it is until I got here.”
Loop had no idea what his one-semester scholarship will save his family, saying his parents have always handled those matters.
“Being a walk-on and paying, it wasn’t cheap, I know that,” he said. “It’s a great savings for my parents. I’m living off-campus this year, and that’s not cheap. I was in a dorm last year, and that’s not cheap, either.”
Loop’s one semester athletic grant is $10,130.
And as excited as DeWayne and Robbin Loop might be about not having to pay a big bill, Loop seemed almost as excited at the reaction to his big news as the scholarship itself.
When Herrion announced the decision to put Loop on scholarship, those bus riders applauded loudly.
“It was a great feeling,” Loop said. “That’s what probably what felt the best about it, when my teammates and the coaches started cheering. I was caught off-guard, didn’t know how to act when Coach said it on the bus. It was a really good feeling, one of the best.”
Now, Loop has another goal. On scholarship, he wants to stay there. What’s that going to take?
“I think what got me a scholarship this semester is doing what I’ve been doing. Work hard, do what Coach asks and tells me to do. Just do what’s best for the team, continue doing that.”