Although the Murphysboro boys basketball season is over, one moment will live on for quite some time.
On Senior Night, when the Red Devils faced Confluence Prep on Feb. 20, Daryl Murphy made a great decision. The Murphysboro head coach decided to start the team’s manager of three years, Rowdy Loyd.
The gesture itself was a good one, but Loyd also delivered the goods during his limited opportunity to play in a varsity basketball game.
“When they introduce the starting lineup, I get to stand with them, but I’m usually on the side and don’t get announced or anything,” Loyd said. “When they shut the lights off and had the spotlight, I loved it. To be able to get announced and play with my classmates was awesome.”
Loyd, who always dreamed of making the team, has cerebral palsy and Nystagmus Optic Nerve Dysplasia. But he still got his big moment and scored 10 points to boot.
“I was told at the beginning of the season that I was going to dress varsity for a game,” Loyd said. “The game I was supposed to play in got cancelled, so I really didn’t know what night it would end up being. I knew I was going to dress, but I didn’t know I was going to start until several hours before the game began. I was really excited about it.”
Loyd's excitement about starting turned into a circus of emotions for his teammates, Murphysboro fans and pretty much anyone in the building. Loyd buried two 3-pointers and made a pair of layups in the final three minutes of the game.
“During the game when I was just sitting there, I kept hoping we’d get a bigger lead,” Loyd said. “I just wanted to get back in there and play. I thought I would probably make a shot, but I didn’t think I’d score 10 points. I also got a steal, and it turned out a lot better than I expected.”
While this is a feel good story, it’s a bit different than most stories like it. Loyd has practiced long hours in the gym and is a talented shooter.
“He is a good shooter, and it seems like he spends about five hours a day in the gym,” Murphy said. “If you play a game of H-O-R-S-E with him, you’ll have a heck of a time trying to beat him.”
Loyd watches a lot of basketball and spends a lot of time practicing trick shots in the gym.
“I’ve worked on a backwards halfcourt shot and all kinds of stuff,” Loyd said. “I’ve worked on shots from the bleachers and shot some from outside the door. I think it’s awesome just to know I have that type of range. It’s a lot of fun to just mess around with it.”
Murphy greatly appreciates Loyd’s enthusiasm for the program.
“It’s been fun having him around, and he always makes sure he’s got everything in line,” Murphy said. “Our boys have been great for him, giving him rides and stuff. My assistant coach, Jon Marston, has been heavily involved with Rowdy over the last four years. Rowdy lives and dies with every game we play. If we get beat it’s crushing to him. If we win, he’s like a kid in a candy store.”
After going to see middle school games in junior high, Loyd developed a love for the game of the basketball. He always wanted to make the high school team, but it didn’t happen. That didn’t stop him from being a contributor to Murphy’s program.
“Being the manager wasn’t my original plan because I was hoping to make the team,” Loyd said. “I wasn’t good enough, I guess. But I never gave up, and I tried out every year.”
Multiple starters on Murphysboro’s team indicated to Coach Murphy that they’d give up their senior night spots in favor of Loyd.
“My players started texting me that day, and we hadn’t decided if we were going to start him or not,” Murphy said. “I had four starters text me that wanted to give up their starting position for Rowdy. It made my decision a lot easier instead of me having to decide which kid to sit.”
After Loyd scored 10 points in the final minutes, he was lifted into the air. He got his moment, and he earned it.
“When they picked me up, I honestly didn’t want to come down,” Loyd said. “The crowd went nuts, and I was just amazed about the whole night. I almost can’t describe the feeling because it was so awesome.”