Pat Gallen remembers one particular basketball practice at Northeast High School. An 11th grader, Gallen was a member of the junior varsity basketball team. One day in practice a teammate came barreling out of nowhere to dive for a loose ball.
“He hit me right in the face and broke my nose,” Gallen says. “It was only practice. It was only junior varsity. But that was the player he was. That’s all he knew.”
The player who went after the ball was Kyle Lowry. A scrawny ninth grader at the time. Gallen and Lowry were both starters on the team. The following year, the two of them graduated to the varsity team. Gallen was a benchwarmer. Lowry became the star of the team. After starting the year coming off the bench, Lowry became the starting point guard early in the season. Gallen still remembers when his point guard recorded a quadruple double.
“When he got his 10th steal, the entire bench got up and gave him a standing ovation,” Gallen says. “It was like, wow, this kid could be something special.”
After a 112-94 loss on Monday, the Raptors trail 3-2 in their best-of-seven series against the Boston Celtics. One loss away from elimination, the Raptors season would be over already if not for two iconic playoff performances from Lowry in Games 3 and 4.
In Game 3, Lowry put up 31 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals, and finished the game with one of the greatest in-bounds passes in playoff history to OG Anunoby for the game-winner at the buzzer. He followed that up with 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks in a Game 4 win. The Raptors won both games to even the series at two.
Throughout this playoff run and over the course of his career, Lowry has also been a game changer on defence, sacrificing his 6-foot, 196 pound body to draw charges on the defensive end. This season, for the second time in three years, Lowry led the league in charges drawn. Whether it is a scrimmage or the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, this has become a signature part of Lowry’s game. It has been that way since he was in high school.
“He perfected the ability to use his body in so many different ways,” Gallen says. “That’s why he’s six feet tall and such a great rebounder. He knows how to use his weight to his advantage. He knows how to use his butt to his advantage, which is pretty clear if you’ve watched him this past decade. You could see that beginning with his 10th grade year. He was doing all of that at a pretty high level at that age.”
Part of the Lowry experience is his win-at-all-costs competitiveness. Part of that includes constantly working the referees during games. “He’s got that Philly attitude,” Gallen says. “He wants to grind you down. He wants to grind the referees down, which you could see back then.”
At age 34, Lowry logged 46 minutes in Game 3 and another 44 minutes in Game 4. He averaged 36.2 minutes per game during the regular season and is averaging 35.4 minutes in the playoffs. Even as a high school sophomore, Gallen remembers a point guard who always wanted to be on the floor.
“He would not back down,” Gallen says. “You could throw him out there and play him 48 minutes and he wouldn’t get winded. We evolved as a team as Kyle evolved.”
Lowry led Northeast High to the Public League finals where they lost to Strawberry Mansion High 73-62. Lowry scored 20 points in defeat. The following year, he transferred to Cardinal Dougherty High. After two years at Villanova, Lowry was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2006 with the 24th overall pick.
When he joined the Raptors in 2012, Lowry came off the bench behind Jose Calderon. Just like at Northeast High, it soon became impossible to keep Lowry out of the starting lineup. Eight years later, he is an NBA champion and the greatest Raptor of all-time.
Today, Gallen is a sports anchor and reporter for CBS3 Philadelphia. Over the weekend, he posted a photo of himself and Lowry from Northeast High. Thinking back at how special he already was as a high schooler, Gallen can’t say he’s surprised at how Lowry’s career has played out.
“You could always see the characteristics of him wanting to be a great player,” Gallen says. “He always had that drive.”
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