Walk-On turned Record-Breaker
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In the 2012-13 school year and basketball season, 6-foot-4 freshman guard Austin Loop walked-on to the Marshall University men’s basketball team. Loop attended small South Webster High School in South Webster, Ohio where he graduated with approximately 60 classmates. He had offers to play basketball for Division II and Division III schools, but none from Division I schools. Loop decided he wanted to play Division I basketball and to have that experience, so he was able to walk-on for Marshall. He redshirted his freshman year at Marshall without high hopes of having the opportunity to get significant playing time. Early on in his Marshall career he considered transferring to Division III Marietta College, a school where he had received a scholarship offer.
Flash forward to the 2016-17 season, and Austin Loop is the all-time leader in made three-pointers in Marshall men’s basketball history. From the outside looking in, a walk-on with no division I offers to breaking a school record such as 251 career made three-pointers which Tamar Slay held for 15 years for the Herd seemed improbable. But for Austin Loop, although he did not know he would break that particular record, he never doubted his basketball abilities.
“After my redshirt year I decided I was going to stay, after that year I realized I could play at this level,” Loop said. “I never would’ve dreamed of setting any records or starting every game since my sophomore year; it never even occurred to me that that could be a possibility.”
Loop broke the school’s all-time made three-pointer record on January 28, 2017 in the team’s 91-68 loss to UTEP. The Marshall offense was shut down, finishing only 3-25 from beyond the arc on that night.
“Well it was not a good shooting night for us,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said following the game. “They made it tough on Loop.”
However, Loop was able to nail two three-pointers, which was enough to write himself in the Marshall history books. Although the team lost for the first time in the Cam Henderson Center this season, the crowd of 6,781 was able to explode when Loop tied, and then hit three-pointer number 252 breaking the record held by Tamar Slay.
Immediately following Loop’s record-breaking three-pointer with 1:38 left in the first half, coach D’Antoni called a timeout. The crowd erupted, only to silence down when a special video message from Tamar Slay played on the video board. In a message to Loop, Slay congratulated him on breaking the record. As three-point sharpshooters, Slay and Loop have become friends during Loop’s career at Marshall
“Over the past couple of years I had gotten to know him a little bit from him coming to practices and coaches clinics, so I had been able to build a little bit of a relationship with him,” Loop said. “We had always joked about the record. He called me before the game and he said ‘you’re going to break the record tonight and congratulations.’ I texted him the next day and told him I appreciated him reaching out and doing that video, and that it meant a lot to me.”
Loop said that it was a relief if nothing else to break the record. He said that following the game he was frustrated and pretty upset because of the game’s result, but that it was not until “the next day when it really sunk in and I was proud that it happened.” There was a lot of build-up, especially on social media which put Loop under pressure on game day.
“I see [on Twitter] ‘come out and watch Austin Loop break the record’ and I think, well now I have to make two,” Loop said. “I felt a little pressure that game, but from the beginning of the season and leading up to it I didn’t feel any.”
Aside from excelling on the court, Loop is also the true definition of a student-athlete. He is pursuing a double major in biomechanics and exercise physiology. He was the first Marshall men’s basketball player to make back-to-back Conference USA All-Academic Teams, a feat he was honored with both of the previous two seasons. Following graduation, his “main objective” is to go to physical therapy school, either at Marshall or somewhere else local.
However, Loop knows he will miss the game. He plans to explore options with playing, possibly overseas. He also did not rule out coaching or staying active with basketball in some form.
“I already know I’ll miss it,” Loop said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself involved in basketball in some way, even if it’s with youth or down the road some side thing. It’s hard to tell, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t find myself somehow involved with the game.”
For right now though, with the record behind him and this basketball season quickly approaching crunch time, Loop has two things on his mind: push the record to being “unbreakable”, and most importantly for him, winning the Conference USA tournament.
“As a team, I’ve never been able to get a ring,” Loop said. “I didn’t get one in high school, I want to win the Conference USA tournament.”
Marshall will look for Austin Loop’s leadership for the remainder of the regular season and when the Conference USA tournament begins in early March. The same Austin Loop who joined the Thundering Herd men’s basketball team in 2012-13 that no one, including himself, knew would have the impact he has had at Marshall.
Patrick O’Leary can be contacted at [email protected]