When the standout from New Zealand committed to the Billikens basketball team last spring, he knew that it would be another world apart from his family. Or at the very least a different hemisphere.
The 6-foot-11 power forward was determined not to let even the slightest form of homesickness affect his play. In the first three games of the season, Loe averaged 14 points per contest, including a breakout 19-point performance against Georgia in which he made five of eight 3-point attempts.
For the longest time, Billikens coach Rick Majerus has been adamant about his disdain for playing freshmen in significant roles. However, with the offseason issues of veterans Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, the coach was left with no other choice.
After his strong start, however, Loe experienced the usual growing pains associated with being a first-year player at the Division I level.
Loe struggled with his shot, was sidelined for a victory against Northeastern with a stomach ailment during the Billikens’ holiday trip to Cancun, Mexico, and watched his minutes decrease because of his struggles on the defensive end of the floor.
Yet on Wednesday night, with SLU opening its Atlantic 10 Conference schedule against Dayton at Chaifetz Arena, Loe was once again contributing in perhaps the most unlikely of ways.
Loe made just one 3-pointer but finished with nine points and was able to assert himself as an inside presence. He mixed it up with Flyers seniors Devin Searcy and Chris Wright in the paint and shot 50 percent from two-point range.
What was perhaps even more impressive was the way Loe, generously listed at 240 pounds, made an impact rebounding. He grabbed seven boards, including three of the offensive variety that led to baskets.
“We’ve shown some stuff to Rob talking about the Georgia game,” SLU associate head coach Porter Moser said. “Getting his confidence back. I had let him know right away, ‘You’re going to play tonight.’”
Moser pointed to a possession in particular in which Loe corralled two offensive rebounds and continually fought inside.
“He stayed after it and got two or three offensive rebounds on that possession,” Moser said. “That is such a good sight to see for the future for Rob.”
After 13 games, including eight starts, Loe is averaging 6.1 points, 4 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per contest. He has made 30.6 percent of his 3-point attempts (11 of 36) and 61.5 percent of his free throw attempts (eight of 13).
In the previous three games, Loe had a total of just one rebound and three points in 14 minutes.
“Rebounding was his biggest thing tonight,” junior guard Kyle Cassity said. “We know he can shoot, that’s what he does. But we need him in the paint grabbing boards and that’s what he did tonight. He showed a huge step in that direction and to win we’re going to need him to continue doing what he’s doing.”