Villanova Basketball: Kyle Lowery shines in a new Raptor role

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

Though his stats may be down, ex-Villanova Wildcat Kyle Lowry is playing some of the best basketball of his career with the Toronto Raptors in 2019.

Has any former Villanova Wildcats basketball player had a more prolific NBA career than Kyle Lowry?

Short answer: No.

Well technically Paul Arizin may give Lowry a run for his money, as he’s a 10-time All-Star and is currently entrenched in the annals of the Hall of Fame, but the team he played for from 1950-62 (save a two-year stint in the Marines) hasn’t played in the City of Brotherly Love since 1962, when the then-Philadelphia Warriors moved cross-country for a new start in San Francisco.

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Of the 48 former Wildcats who’ve played at least a minute in the NBA, none have logged more minutes than Lowry, only one, Rory Sparrow, has appeared in more games, and only one has scored more points, Arzin.

Furthermore, after a consistent string of draft day selections from the 1950s through the 1990s, where it was very common to find a former Wildcat on an NBA roster, Lowry helped to put Villanova back on the map both as a legitimate college basketball presence and as a legitimate breeding ground for future NBA talent.

In the years since Lowry was selected 24th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, the second Villanova player picked in the first round behind the recently retired Randy Foye; there have been seven former Wildcats selected in the NBA Draft, including a record-breaking four in 2018 alone.

Though Lowry never won a National Championship on the Mainline, he did help to cultivate a winning tradition with relatively new head coach Jay Wright and has continued to be among the most decorated alums in the NBA right now.

And, depending on how the season shakes out, Lowry may be the first Wildcat to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy since John Celestand (who?) accomplished the feat with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2000.

While Lowry’s personal statistics have dropped off noticeably over the last two seasons, due in large part to the Toronto Raptors‘ scheme shift towards the NBA’s new 3 happy offensive style, the team is on pace to have their best season in years, and may finally break out of the East for the first time in the franchise’s history.

They have just been that good.

One could chalk the team’s resurgence under first-year head coach Nick Nurse to the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, which is a solid argument, but so far this season, the Raptors are 10-2 without their best player. However, in games without Lowry, the Raptors are 7-4, a noticeable difference for a team with only 15 losses so far this season.

Lowry is a floor general. He may not be the biggest, fastest, or most pass-friendly point guard in the NBA, but he consistently finds a way to galvanize his troops and get the most out of the Raptors’ mostly young corp.

Furthermore, in games where Lowry isn’t on the court, the Raptors have scored an average of 6.7 fewer points a game (107.2 vs. 113.9) while giving up roughly the same number of points (108.2 vs. 108.5) each night.

That’s a huge disparity.

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So while Kyle Lowry’s personal statistics may be down from his 2016-17 career highs, when he averaged the most points (22.4), minutes (37.4), and the best 3 point shooting percentage of his career (41.2), the former Villanova Wildcat has been the catalyst for the Toronto Raptors’ best season in franchise history not only because of his production but because of his on-court leadership. Who would have imagined that when Lowry was almost kicked off the Wildcats not once but twice during his two-year tenure on the Mainline?