PDT Sports Writer
ATHENS — The last time Austin Loop stepped foot on the Convocation Center floor, his high school career was ended in the Division IV Southeast District Championships.
Fast forward 10 months from the 54-41 loss to Manchester that South Webster sustained March 10, Loop was again on the Ohio University hardwood, this time as a walk-on freshman for the Marshall men’s basketball team. The Thundering Herd were in town Jan. 5 to face the Bobcats for the 100th meeting all-time between the two schools who are separated by 80 miles.
Although Ohio came away with the 94-57 victory, it was yet another learning experience for the former Jeep and Division IV Southeast District Player of the Year.
“Last night, we came to get a shoot-around, I just looked around and (said) I played quite a bit of games here,” Loop said. “I was telling the guys we played our district games here and it’s a pretty familiar court. But today was a big step and a different level, it was good to be here.”
But it didn’t mean thoughts of shedding the warm-up and logging minutes weren’t creeping through his head in such a lopsided game.
“I get like that some times, I wonder but I trust our guys,” Loop said. “Tonight, it just didn’t go for us and they had everything going for them. We couldn’t really get it going but we’ll bounce back.”
It’s one of the many venues Loop has been able to witness of in his first season as a collegiate athlete. From plane rides to dressing for every game, he has been able to experience major college basketball from a unique perspective.
“POWDER”ING THE TEAM FROM THE PINE
Loop’s only action after the Jan. 9 Conference USA opener with Tulsa has come during the exhibition portion of the campaign against NAIA-affiliated Bluefield (VA) College. Marshall coach Tom Herrion plans to redshirt Loop in hopes of getting him acclimated to the college game without sacrificing eligibility.
“He’s playing against high-level kids every day in practice,” Herrion said. “He’s worked on his body, he’s gotten a lot better.
“He’s a competitive young man so he’s not afraid to go out there and compete day in and day out with our guys. He’s been a great addition.”
One thing the man nicknamed by some of his teammates as “Powder” has learned from his experiences is living in and out of a suitcase as he is out on his own for the first time. Trips to Villanova, Hofstra and Kentucky’s Rupp Arena are just some of the destinations the Thundering Herd have battled in search of victories.
“It’s really just a different experience,” Loop said. “I really never gave it much thought about all of the travel.”
Another thing he has learned: The pace of the college game is different from the high school action. He admitted once he got through the first few weeks of practice, he could become more comfortable.
“It’s such a quicker game, I think that’s something what I’ve had to get used to is the speed,” Loop said.
Herrion is pleased to see Loop gain a grip on how to play in his system.
“He’s been an invaluable piece,” Herrion said. “We’ve asked for him to do different things for us, beyond the scout team running the opponents offenses or defenses. That helps in our preparation and helps our guys get ready.
“He’s embraced that role, he’s a terrific teammate, his teammates really enjoy having him and (so does) our coaching staff. We’re really thrilled with having him in our program.”
Basketball is in Loop’s blood. Most notably, his uncle Rick Scarberry was also a Division I basketball player.
Scarberry, the current principal and boys basketball coach at Northwest, was a star for the Green hoops team before lettering from 1982-1985 for Ohio. On this day, he was one of about a dozen people in the family to watch the game.
According to Scarberry, many things are different at The Convo from his playing days compared to his chance of watching his nephew play that day.
“Even this is a different shade, we didn’t have this dark green when I was here,” Scarberry said as he scanned the arena after the game from the floor level. “It’s more of a Kelly Green and Marshall is more of a different kind green.”
According to each school’s website, Ohio has evolved from an Olive Green to a Hunter Green while Marshall boasts Kelly Green as its predominant color.
No matter what shade of green each team has, both schools understand it’s a big rivalry with the others. While Loop was in summer workouts in Huntington, Scarberry offered to send his old collegiate workout gear to Loop.
Although he’s in different school colors, Scarberry said he is still proud to watch his nephew play at the collegiate level.
“He’s put his time in and he’s practicing hard,” Scarberry said, “It’s bad when you can’t play and you’re looking for that redshirt but that’s the best move for him. That’s going to pay him dividens.”
THE TORCH BEARER
Loop is just another in the line of former South Webster basketball players to be in Division I basketball. As a member of the 2005-2006 state championship team, Brigham Waginger played for four years at Western Carolina. Presently, Kayla Cook is showcasing her skills for the University of Cincinnati.
The present boys coach of the Jeeps, Steven Ater, is just glad to see his pupil is within driving distance of watching him play. Ater thought of taking the team to watch Marshall play Delaware State as well as Ohio. Unfortunately, regularly-scheduled or makeup games fell on those nights.
Nonetheless, making the trip to a Marshall home game is still there. The earliest would be the Jan. 19 home game with East Carolina.
Ater and Loop communicate on a frequent basis. Ater feels he sees Loop on television as much as he seen him in practices and games a year ago.
“He’s really enjoying his experience,” Ater said. “He talks about how much better he’s getting with the competition he’s playing against and the coaching that he’s getting every day.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.