Friday, April 26, 2019

The Greatness Of Kevin Lowe

Records, as they say, are meant to be tied.

Or at least that's how it is with the record for points in a career for Princeton men's lacrosse.

Kevin Lowe started his career with a goal and two assists against Johns Hopkins in 1991 and ended it with an overtime goal to beat Virginia in the 1994 NCAA championship game. That last goal gave him 247 career points, and that number has spent 25 years as untouchable.

It's not that great players didn't take their best shot at it. Ryan Boyle came the closest, finishing with 232. There were four other players who reached 200 points, and that group is an extraordinary one - Jon Hess, Jesse Hubbard, Mike MacDonald and Tom Schreiber. None of them had more than 215, which means none of them came all that close to Lowe.

Now, though, that magic number of 247 has been equaled. It's not stunning - it's been obvious this would be happening for almost three years now.

With his 10 points against Harvard last weekend, Princeton junior Michael Sowers now has tied Lowe with 247 career points. With his next point, Sowers will be in sole possession of the record, and with every one after that, he will begin to put the record so far out of reach that it'll be similar to what Bill Bradley did in men's basketball back in 1965.

Just as in Bradley's case, nobody will ever approach what Sowers is doing.

The numbers that Sowers is putting up are insane. He has the highest points per game average in Division I in the last 38 years (and the fifth best ever), and when it comes to assists, his per game average is fourth all-time and the best in 35 years.

When it comes to single-season scoring at Princeton, he is first, second and third. That's also ridiculous.

It took Sowers 41 games to get to 247. It took Lowe 60. Of those 101 games the two have played between them, TigerBlog estimates he was at probably 85 of them.

He also estimates that only one person has been to more of those games than he has, and that's Bryce Chase, the longtime member of the program who has seen more Princeton men's lacrosse than anyone.

"The way I judge people in sports," Bryce says, "is how do they make the people around them better. Kevin Lowe was the best here at making people around him better. Well, Kevin and now Michael. Ryan Boyle is the smartest lacrosse player I've ever seen. Kevin and Michael are the best at making the people around them better."

TigerBlog has spent the last three years chronicling Sowers' achievements, and as such, he's also spent a lot of time writing about Lowe as well. As in, "Sowers is on pace to catch Lowe" or "Sowers is the fastest to 100 points since Lowe." That kind of stuff.

Now that Sowers has caught Lowe, TB wanted to make sure people don't forget how great a player Kevin Lowe was.

When TB and Bryce were talking about their memories of Lowe's playing days here, they both remembered the same play, where Lowe, falling out of bounds along the sidelines, threw a 25-or-so-yard pass for an assist. 

What else does TigerBlog remember about Kevin Lowe as a player, other than that he remains the only player ever to score an overtime game in the NCAA and Major League Lacrosse championship games?

First, he is the smoothest player TB has ever seen. There was never any wasted motion or effort ever. It's one of the first things TB noticed about him. Every movement was perfectly efficient.

Second, there was his vision. He could see everything. He was a high school quarterback (and safety) and point guard, and he could see everything.

TB remembers him clearly, his head up at all times, always feathering the right pass to the right player at the right moment.

In many ways, Lowe is a bit overlooked as a player, possibly because he wasn't the flashiest player ever.

"He could make it look effortless," Bryce says. "The game would end and you'd say 'well Kevin didn't have a great game.' Then you'd look and he had one and four."

TigerBlog called Lowe earlier this week to talk about how Sowers tied his record, what he thinks of Sowers, if he expected to have his record last as long as it did.

It's always good to talk to him. These days, he has three kids, the oldest of whom is a high school freshman and lacrosse player. Lowe has spent a great deal of time coaching his kids through the years.

"Sowers is a scoring machine," Lowe says. "It was pretty clear that he was going to get there. It was just a matter of when. I've seen him play live several times. He's quick. He's aggressive. He's bold. He's fun to watch."

The game was different when Lowe played. Princeton played a slower pace, and the Tigers often took three, four, five or more minutes off the clock on possessions when they had the lead in the fourth quarter.

"I can count the number of fast break goals I scored on one hand," Lowe said, laughing. "It's different now. It was a crawl to 10 goals back then. We'd get up and then we'd put the clamps on."

They're certainly different players. Lowe was 6-1, 180 as a player, which makes him about five inches taller than Sowers. Lowe wasn't as quick as Sowers, and he couldn't change direction like Sowers can (but then again, it's possible that nobody else who's ever played can do that).

They both, though, were pure quarterbacks of an offense. Get the ball to them, and good things are likely to happen.

As Bryce said, their ability to make everyone around them better is their most defining characteristic. That an extraordinary vision. They share both of those qualities.

For now, they also share a record. Sowers has a chance tomorrow to take sole possession of the record when the Tigers play at Cornell. They need a win by at least three goals to reach the Ivy League tournament, and well, you're probably bored of reading about the rest of the craziness surrounding the tiebreakers.

So for today, you can read about Kevin Lowe. For his part, Sowers says that he's met Kevin Lowe: "I spoke with him after the fall banquet and after a few games. He's a great guy. Unfortunately, I've never seen any video of him as a player."

There are probably a lot of people who haven't.

You can get a sense of some of how he played HERE. He's No. 16. 

It's been 25 years, after all, since Kevin Lowe set his record. It stood for quarter-century, and it took an extraordinary talent to catch it.

But that doesn't take away from how great a player Lowe was.

"Michael is an amazing player," Lowe said. "He's got a long way to go too. He's going to get well past 300 points. That's not a number a lot of guys will ever get."

TigerBlog was honored to have Lowe be such a huge part of his introduction to this sport all those years ago.

And it's because he saw him play so much that he can really appreciate what it is that Sowers has done.

TigerBlog has told everyone who would listen that Sowers was going to destroy the record. He also said it wasn't just anyone's record.

It was Kevin Lowe's.

There haven't been too many players anywhere who have ever been better than he was.


D '82 said...

TB, the quality of the coaches' podcasts continues to impress. Hearing their stories and getting a look behind the scenes is very informative. Of course, some episodes are better than others and I find that the best ones include conversations which wander far afield. Along those lines, the most engaging episode ever was Bob Surace's recent interview of Craig Sachson.

Listening to the two of them cover 17 years of Tiger football and Princeton sports in general was fantastic. Craig had so much history to share and Bob was shockingly terrific as an interviewer. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Coach Surace is better as an interviewer than as a subject. His energy and especially his personality really shone through when asking questions and responding to Craig's answers. I suggest that, for future football podcasts, he interview himself.

One other thing that Coach Surace apparently can do very well is recruit quarterbacks. Last night, Duke University red shirt junior quarterback Daniel Jones was drafted as the #6 selection overall by the New York Giants. Coming out of high school in 2015, Jones was committed to Princeton, lock stock and barrel, before receiving a last minute offer from the Blue Devils.

Coach Surace has recruited quarterbacks who have won four out of the last six Bushnell Cups, kept a highly ranked quarterback from defecting to Nick Saban and just missed out on an NFL quarterback who was drafted #6 last night. That's not a bad record. Coach Surace should ask himself about that on his next podcast.

dougm said...

michael sowers, philadelphia wings, make it happen.