When Johnathan Loyd’s name is entered into Google search, the first result that appears after his bio is a photograph. The 5-foot-8 guard is defending UC Irvine’s Mamadou Ndiaye — a 7-foot-6 center. Though his impact on the Oregon basketball program may be small at first glance, the senior has led Oregon’s revitalization and will go down as an all-time great.
Johnathan grew up living and breathing basketball. His father, Michael, played point guard at University of Nevada, Las Vegas from 1978-81 and passed down his wealth of hoops knowledge to each of his three sons: Michael Jr., Kevin and Johnathan. Johnathan says that to this day, his father reviews game film with him and acts as one of his coaches.
“Everything I know is from him,” Johnathan said. “I still talk to him every week and he lets me know what he sees from the games. We go over film together and he’s meant the world to me through this.”
Both of Johnathan’s brothers played college basketball as well. Michael Jr. played two years at BYU before transferring to Midwestern State University. Kevin played his first two seasons at Grambling State before joining Michael Jr. at MSU. Kevin said that as a kid watching game film was like clockwork in the Loyd household.
“(Our dad) was basically our coach and our teacher growing up,” Kevin said. ”He filmed just about every game we played in. (Mom) had a camera and he had a camera wherever we were and that night we’d sit there as a family in front of the TV and go over games.”
The hours and years of practice led Johnathan to Bishop Gorman High School, a school that’s nationally renowned for its athletic success. Johnathan led the Gaels to consecutive state championships in 2009 and 2010, and finished his career with 102 wins, second on the all-time list.
“He’s the type of kid you would want on your team,” long-time assistant coach Mike Wright said. “There was no obstacle that was ever too big for him to conquer. His junior year he probably had five game-winners. He had ice in his veins, never scared of a challenge.”
His senior year, Johnathan joined the football team four games into their schedule. Despite missing nearly half the season, Johnathan excelled on special teams and returned five punts for touchdowns in what would be a state championship season.
Johnathan wrapped up his athletic career at Bishop Gorman with accolades in both sports. A first team all-state return man selection in football, Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year and class 4A boy’s basketball player of the year honors on the hardwood.
Despite the incredible success Johnathan has had on both an individual and team level in two sports, he wasn’t highly recruited for football and was given three out of five stars for basketball by ESPN.
“You put John in a 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 body he’s probably a top player in the country and every team wants him,” Wright said.
In the end, Johnathan’s heart was in basketball and his final decision came down to UNLV — his dream school and father’s alma mater — or Oregon, which had a re-tooled coaching staff headed by Dana Altman. Both offers came in late and swayed Johnathan away from his determined finalists of Northwestern and George Washington, according to a report by the Register-Guard.
Johnathan ultimately chose Oregon and was Altman’s first signing.
“The recruiting got crazy on him, which ended up being a great thing for us,” Altman told the Register-Guard. “With so many people involved, it dragged his recruiting out and enabled us to get back in on him.”
At 5-foot-8, Johnathan is shorter than most on the basketball court. Throughout his playing career and life, it hasn’t held him back an inch.
“Johnathan’s always had that pit bull mentality,” Kevin said. “He’s never seen someone as bigger or taller than he is. In his eyes he’s the biggest and strongest one on the court. Being that small, you have to have that mentality to make it at that level.”
“To be honest, I don’t even think Johnathan knew he was short,” Wright said. “We would put him on any player, whoever was the other team’s best player. He puts in the work and he believes in what he’s doing and believes in his own abilities as a player regardless of his height.”
Oregon’s fast-paced style of basketball fits Johnathan’s need for speed. When he’s in the driver’s seat, it’s easy to dismiss his less-than-ideal basketball size. Johnathan has always had a knack for flare, namely alley-oops.
“As a point guard it was like giving a brand new car to a teenager,” Wright said. “He didn’t know how to drive at first but he was excited to have the keys in his hands. He was making passes that he knew he shouldn’t be making and by the time he got to his senior year he was completing those passes and throwing alley-oops.”
Through all the hoops, alley-oops and obstacles, Johnathan has remained a consistent contributor for the Ducks. He doesn’t start every game or put up brilliant numbers, but Johnathan has been a necessary cog in Oregon’s rebuilding process. He’s played in the CBI and NIT, won the Pac-12 Tournament and ridden a dream season to the sweet 16.
“Johnathan has been a great leader for us,” Oregon assistant coach Tony Stubblefield said. “He brings energy every day he steps on the floor. He has a great work ethic and that’s improved over the time he’s been here … I’ve just seen the maturity in his growth. He’s been a big part of what we’ve been doing.”
With a month left in his senior season, Johnathan is averaging career highs in points and assists, shooting career best percentages from the field, three-point and free throw line and leads the Pac-12 in assist to turnover ratio and free throw percentage. He’s tied for fifth all-time among Oregon players in assists and is seventh in steals. He’s one of three Ducks to be recognized as the Pac-12 tournament’s most outstanding player. He has played in more games than any player in Oregon history, and he became the winningest basketball player do ever don an Oregon O following Wednesday night’s 78-71 victory over Washington.
“It’s been a long but quick four years,” Johnathan said. “The fans have been so supportive of me. Even at times when I was struggling they were always there to just say ‘we believe in you’ … that really helped me. It’s tough being in a big man’s world but I like it. It’s a challenge I’m never going to turn down.”
Follow Madison Guernsey on Twitter @guernseymd