Aug. 22, 2008
The Nova Notebook, by Villanova director of media relations Mike Sheridan, appears weekly during the fall and into the basketball season and periodically from May through August. In this entry we catch up with former Wildcat standout and third year National Basketball Association player Kyle Lowry.
Not long after Kyle Lowry had made the 2006 announcement that he would bypass his final two years at Villanova, the Philadelphia native assured friends and staffers that he wasn't about to vanish from a place he had come to cherish.
"I'll be around," he told one and all as he said his goodbyes.
Fast forward to 2008 and it's apparent this Philadelphia native is a man of his word. Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to locate anyone outside of the current roster who has logged more hours inside the Davis Center this summer. Most every morning, Lowry was on the men's practice court, usually with a partner, always dripping sweat.
At one point, the 6-0 guard was joined by Memphis teammate and fellow Philadelphian Hakim Warrick. Former teammate Chris Charles, fresh off a recent summer league stint with the Chicago Bulls, has been a more recent training sidekick. And there have been others too, fellow professionals seeking to hone their games in a setting well-suited to the total basketball workout.
"This has helped me a lot," said Lowry, standing off to the side of the court after a recent workout. "Not having to find a gym to work out in every day is big. I've got a gym where I can come in, bring my coaches, bring my trainer and be able to do it in privacy."
The individual seen most often alongside Lowry is another Villanova guard with an NBA pedigree. Alvin Williams is a decade older and four inches taller than this Cardinal Dougherty High School product but it's clear that the two share a bond. Williams, who played primarily for the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors following his graduation in 1997, did not play professionally last season and is now more focused on his post-basketball opportunities, which included appearing as an NBA analyst on Comcast SportsNet. Yet he has much to offer as a mentor.
"Alvin is my main man," says Lowry of the one-time Germantown Academy standout. "We have worked out a lot this summer and he has so much to teach because of what he learned playing for so long in the league."
As fellow Philadelphians, the two became acquainted with one another during the middle part of this decade as Lowry grew into a star at Cardinal Dougherty High School. But the pair didn't truly make a connection until Lowry enrolled at Villanova in the fall of 2004. At the time, Lowry had just torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee thereby putting his career on hold for the first time in his life.
"He was an alum that was around and you could talk to," Lowry states. "There were things that he had gone through that I was experiencing for the first time. We became pretty close over time."
This summer they have been regularly spotted inside the Davis Center. Williams has offered a wide range of tips on some of the nuances that go into making a successful professional career. And Lowry has always been nothing if not a sponge for knowledge dating back to his time as a Wildcat.
Truth is, Lowry is off to a pretty fair start professionally. After having his rookie season short-circuited by a broken wrist, the speedy point guard established himself quite nicely in 2007-08 despite the arrival of another high-profile young point guard in the draft, Mike Conley. Lowry played in all 82 games for the Grizzlies, starting nine times, and averaged 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in roughly 25 minutes per outing.
"The most important thing I took out of last year is that I was able to touch the floor every game and play the whole season," he says. "That was a goal of mine and I achieved that. Now I have some new things I am looking to do this season."
Memphis struggled in 2007-08. This summer their youthful roster, which already featured Rudy Gay, Warrick, and Conley, became even younger with the draft day addition of O.J. Mayo. In a rugged Western Conference, where 50 wins doesn't guarantee a playoff berth, that makes for a tall mountain to scale.
"Young isn't even the word for us," Lowry says with a laugh.
As he more seriously considers the question about what to anticipate in 2008-09, Lowry sounds the same notes he did in attacking opponents defensively as a collegian.
"We want to make the playoffs," he says. "That's always the goal. We know we're in the toughest division in basketball. Four other teams won 50 games last year. We just want to make strides and make intelligent plays. We want to go out there every night and make some noise."
The summer of 2008 hasn't been solely limited to the confines of the Davis Center for Lowry. There was in fact an eye opening visit to African nations Mali and Senegal that he took as part of an NBA tour undertaken by his shoe company. For seven days, Lowry and league representatives visited communities and youngsters in the two countries.
"It was the most humbling experience I have ever had in my life," he says. "It was so different from what we know in this country. We get upset about not making enough money but at least we have some money. People we saw in these countries are truly poor. You see dirt roads and kids walking around in bare feet. Gyms aren't close to being anything close to ours. Floors are messed up, rims are bent. It's tough.
"The best part was being around the kids over there. They don't think of themselves as poor. They believe in the riches of family and are very cultural. You can see they love their lives and that's something that really struck me."
As he looks around the sparkling confines of the Davis Center he shakes his head.
"It was an amazing trip," he says.
During his two seasons at Villanova, the Nova Nation often marveled at the 6-0 guard's gravity-defying drives through the big bodies to the basket. There was no fear then and his willingness to embrace the opportunity to visit Africa underscores the notion that Lowry's growth here wasn't limited to the hardwood.
Yes, you can go home again.
And it feels even better when you have gained a fuller understanding of all that life has offered you.