There were only 16 seconds left and the Hawks were about to grab a double-digit win on the road against Commonwealth Coast Conference opponent the University of New England on Jan. 19.
Senior captain Austin Coene stepped up to the foul line with no real idea of what he was about to accomplish next.
With two made free throws, Coene became the new all-time leading scorer in RWU men’s basketball history, breaking the previous record of 1,928 points.
“I wasn’t counting my points. Then I hit a free throw and they made the announcement and I was like, ‘Oh, wow,’” Coene said. “It was really cool. I smiled at the free-throw line when it happened.”
Growing up, Coene was a multi-sport athlete, but basketball was the one sport he never gave up.
He made his first visit to RWU during his freshman year of high school for an AAU tournament and became interested in attending in a few years. He returned to campus during the summer before his senior year for a camp and met Coach Michael Tully and Coach Dan Weidmann. He called them a few weeks later and told them he was planning on coming next fall.
Coene didn’t really know what to expect in his first collegiate season, but he knew he just wanted a chance to play.
Did he ever.
Throughout his freshman season, he played in all 28 games, started 19 and recorded the third most minutes on the team. He finished the season with a team-leading 318 points and averaged 11.4 per game.
He just got better from there.
During his sophomore season, he scored 541 points. Last season, he set the RWU single-season scoring record with 614 while averaging 22.7 PPG, which was tied for 19th across all Division III.
Believe it or not, he’s probably having an even better season this year. Through 20 games, as of Jan. 31, Coene is leading the CCC with his 25.5 PPG and 510 points, which means he’s on track to break his own record.
The career scoring record that Coene is now the sole possessor of was previously held by Ed Randolph, who played from 1978-82.
“I think it’s really cool,” Coene said. “I wish I was able to watch Ed Randolph play.”
After he broke the record, Coene received an email from a professor he’s never met. In it, he wrote that he taught at RWU during Randolph’s career and has been following Coene’s achievements for the past three and a half years.
“It was really cool how he was emailing me and congratulating me,” Coene said.
The all-time scoring record might not be the only Randolph record Coene breaks. Coene is creeping up on both career field goals made and free throws made. He’s only 23 FGs away from Randolph’s 735 and only needs 20 more FTs to tie Randolph’s 458.
Since the Hawks played UNE, Coene has scored 51 points, which has earned him two consecutive CCC Player of the Week recognitions, and brought his career points up to 1,983 — only 17 points away from becoming the first 2,000-point scorer in RWU history. He is expected to hit this milestone Saturday, Feb. 2 against Gordon College in Bristol.
Coene scored both his 1,000th point and record-breaker in Biddeford, Maine, so he’s hoping he can get one big career event in front of his home crowd.
“I guess it doesn’t really matter if it’s home or away, but it would be nice,” Coene said.
But scoring at least 17 points won’t come easy against Gordon. The Fighting Scots are currently 9-1 in CCC play and only allow their opponents 76.8 PPG.
Coene will have at least four more games to try and get to 2,000 if he doesn’t reach it Saturday. The Hawks finish out their regular season all against conference schools, including an away matchup against powerhouse Nichols College.
“That’s the one team, since I’ve been here, I’ve never beat,” Coene said.
In less than a month, Coene will walk off the court one last time to cap off an outstanding career and as possibly the greatest basketball player RWU has ever seen.
“I’ll be happy when I look back. I’m going to be sad. It’ll be bitter sweet. It was a good college career,” Coene said. “I made so many friends from this sport and so many memories, so I think I hopefully made the most of it, so I’ll be happy when I look back.”