Can Devin Collins be the next Austin Loop?
Marshall University veteran men’s basketball coach Danny D’Antoni certainly hopes so.
Is it a long shot? Of course.
How many times can a walk-on develop into the best knock-down 3-point shooter in program history as Loop did? Well, D’Antoni is hoping 3-point lightning can strike at least twice. That’s why he recently put Collins on scholarship.
“We told him when he first came here that was what we were going to do,” said D’Antoni. “We got him on. He’s a shooter. Long. Wing player. He’s not a typical one or two guy [guard], he’s more of a three [small forward].”
It has been a one-step-at-a-time progression for Collins so far. The 6-foot-8 former Chapmanville High School star was redshirted as a freshman and appeared in only four games and scored just five points during the 2020-21 season.
But now it’s time for the next step.
“It feels great to be on scholarship,” said Collins. “I walked on for two years. I knew I was going to go on scholarship after two years, but it’s still a great feeling.
“Even though you knew it was coming, going in the office that day and hearing Coach D’Antoni tell your family that you’re going on scholarship was a great moment. My parents were super happy. That is what we were looking forward to.
“Now I start working and try to get a lot of minutes on the court this year.”
That’s where the Loop comparisons begin.
“He’ll have to play the three and he’ll have to play a little bit like Loop,” said D’Antoni. “We have to get him where I have the same confidence in him that I had in Loop. Again, when Loop first started, I didn’t have that same confidence in him. But I knew that was where we needed to go. And that’s where we need to go with Devin.”
Collins needs to be the guy to put “perimeter fear” into an opposing defense. That’s what Loop did during his prolific career. Loop was 293 of 714 on 3-pointers (41%) in his career. More important, the 6-4 Loop sank 112 of 254 threes (44%) during his senior season at Chapmanville.
That is quite the challenge.
“He’s got to be able to be that guy,” said D’Antoni. “Now, whether he can be or not, that’s to be seen. He’s getting bigger and stronger. We’ll just have to wait and see. It might be still a year or two away. I don’t know. He needs to gain about 10 pounds.
“He’s got to work on his burst, his speed, his jumping ability to rebound and, mentally, he has to be tough enough to say, ‘I’m taking this shot and it’s going down.’”
Although Collins never saw Loop play, he still hopes to … well, loop the loop.
“That’s what I want to be,” said Collins.
“I heard a lot about him. I believe I can live up to that, for sure. We’re both real good shooters. I redshirted a year and that gave me a year to mature and put some weight on. Now, after two years I believe I’m ready to go.”
That’s good, positive thinking, but D’Antoni isn’t going to rush Collins.
“It took a while for Loop,” D’Antoni pointed out. “It wasn’t like Loop walked in and just did it. I had to convince him — he’s open, shoot it. And once he got it, he did it.
“Now, can I predict that Devin will get there? I don’t know. I don’t think anybody can. But I think we have a chance. I think it’s there. He has that potential. But potential isn’t crap unless he cashes it in.
“You know, that’s not coaching. That’s an individual cashing in on that. He’s got to give me a reason to trust him. And how do you do that? Make freakin’ shots. Simple as that. He has to show me that he can do that.”
That’s what it will take for Collins to be the “next” Loop.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.