MCGILL: Slay Rooted for Loop to Break 3-Point Record
The Word on the Herd -- Jan. 28, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Austin Loop dribbled to his left, squared his body with the basketball hoop and drained the 3 with 1:38 left of the first half Saturday night to become Marshall University’s all-time leader in career 3-pointers with 252.
As the ball dropped through the hoop, Loop slid on his backside across the Henderson Center court and the rowdy crowd erupted as timeout was called. As the Herd and visiting UTEP huddled near their respective benches, a special message from former Herd star Tamar Slay – who’d held the record of 251 for 15 years – played on the arena’s video board.
Slay, a former NBA player who works with the league as a regional rep for the Player Programs department, has watched Loop’s ascent up the 3-point list closely. He even went to dinner with Loop prior to the start of the season.
“I’ve been around him a lot since I retired,” Slay told HerdZone.com earlier this week. “We actually had a two-hour conversation before the season. I told him if he was going to get close to the record, I was going to kidnap him.”
Slay listened to Loop, a 6-foot-4 senior guard from South Webster, Ohio. He was moved by Loop’s life story, his refusal to abandon his dream of playing major college basketball and his ability to overcome a lack of recruiting interest and the death of his father.
“He shared his story with me,” Slay said. “His father passed away, which I know was really hard for him. He had offers to smaller schools, but he decided to walk on and take a chance. That first year was really rough on him, but he knew in his heart he could play at the Division I level.”
Loop played 13 games and 75 minutes as a freshman at Marshall in 2013-14, hitting 11 of 30 from 3-point range and 41 points total. That is an unfavorable starting position for a career that would take him to the top of the school’s all-time 3-point list.
“There are a lot of great shooters who have come through there,” Slay said. “Guys who could flat-out shoot it.”
Loop made 84 3s as a sophomore, 86 as a junior and hit Nos. 70 and 71 in the first half against UTEP on Saturday night. On the record-breaking 3, Loop dribbled from the right wing and pulled up as UTEP’s Dominic Artis extended both arms in defense. It didn’t matter.
Those are 3s that Slay has admired for the last four years.
“He does a good job of constantly moving without the ball,” Slay said. “He’s not just a flat-foot stand-still shooter; he comes off screens and pops off the floor and makes shots with guys in his face. If you want to break records, you have to be a guy who can make shots with a hand in your face.”
Loop can now take aim at climbing the Conference USA all-time charts. No. 10 on that list is Cincinnati great Steve Logan, who made 258.
Ultimately, Slay rooted for his record to fall because he couldn’t root against Loop.
“He’s worked his tail off,” Slay said. “That’s what I teach my kids now – if you believe in it, work hard and go for it. He’s worked his tail off in the gym, he’s a true student-athlete, he has great character, so if anyone is going to break my record, I want it to be Austin. I lot of people give up but he just kept fighting.”