Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kiwi Has Liked Being a Billiken; Loe Reflects on His Life at St. Louis U. as He Nears the End of His Career There; COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kiwi Has Liked Being a Billiken; Loe Reflects on His Life at St. Louis U. as He Nears the End of His Career There; COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Article excerpt

ORLANDO, Fla. * New Zealand is not a big country. Its population is about 1 times that of metropolitan St. Louis. The country is long and thin and at its widest is less than the distance between St. Louis and Kansas City. There are about seven sheep for every one resident.

Because it is so small, a population of 4.5 million, the country's youth frequently head abroad, for education and experience. They head to Australia, the not-so-close next-door neighbor (about 1,500 miles away) to the west. They head to the United Kingdom, with which New Zealand shares a queen. And, like St. Louis University basketball player Rob Loe, they head to America.

Loe came to America to play basketball and get an education, to prepare him, he said, for whatever happens after he's done playing basketball. The end of both is in sight.

SLU begins play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, in Orlando, Fla., against North Carolina State and each team still playing is entitled to just one loss before the season ends. Loe will graduate at the end of this semester.

He is part of an exceptional SLU senior class that has taken the program to levels not reached in 40 years. Loe has been an integral part of that, moving into the starting lineup as a freshman. Only Dwayne Evans has started more games than Loe, and that's only because Loe got sick during the team's trip to Mexico as a freshman.

While what everyone notices is Loe's outside shooting for his first two seasons, there seemed a fascination with a 6-foot-11 guy taking 3-pointers, which often led to coach Rick Majerus talking about trapezoidal keys Loe's strengths are much more than that. He doesn't block a lot of shots, though he is sixth on the school's career list (with 88), but he alters many more. Some of the key plays for SLU this season, such as Jordair Jett's game-winning drive against Massachusetts, came after a defensive stop by Loe.

The coaching staff values his intellect. Coach Jim Crews, asked for a word to describe Loe, offered "wise." Freshman Reggie Agbeko said the coaches told him if he doesn't understand something that he should first ask Loe.

"The coaches will talk about a play we're running," Agbeko said, "and something will happen and Rob will change it and do it a certain way, which will make it more perfect."

When Loe came out of the game early in SLU's game at Virginia Commonwealth, he sat on the bench near the coaches and was yelling at teammates on the court, not words of encouragement, but strategy.

"He's one of the smartest players I've ever come across," said SLU assistant Calbert Cheaney, who played 13 seasons in the NBA. "He knows what to do and when to do it. He's a great passer who thinks one or two moves ahead, and defensively he does a great job at the rim, not fouling but at the same time affecting shots."

As visible as he may be, Loe also might be the team's most unappreciated player. On a team with two other players who made the all-conference first team, it was Loe who had the best plus-minus number, the relationship between the number of points scored with him on the floor vs. the number of points allowed.

Going into the conference tournament, SLU was plus 297 with Loe on the court; Evans was second at plus 268.

"Evans and Jett deservedly get a lot of attention," VCU coach Shaka Smart said earlier this season. "Those guys are first-team all- league players. But Loe is a really good player. He's a unique player because of his size and ability to play on the perimeter."

He's a unique player for a lot of other reasons, too.


Loe was born in England. He has dual citizenship, though he uses his New Zealand passport for travel, he said, because "people like the Kiwis better."

He spent his early years in a town called, poetically, Ashby de- la Zouch, a small city in England's Midlands near Leicestershire. When Loe was 4, his parents moved to New Zealand.

"We were fed up with the rat race in the UK," his father, David, said. …

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