Trey Lowe woke up in a hospital bed on Feb. 28, 2016 and knew that his life would be different.
Just hours earlier, Lowe had been involved in a one-car auto accident that left him with serious upper body injuries. He didn’t know it at the time, but the accident would cause him to miss the rest of the 2015-16 basketball season—his freshman year at Temple University—and force him to redshirt the entirety of this season as he works to recover from his injuries.
“It could be a step back to my progress, but also be a blessing in disguise,” said Lowe, a 2015 Ewing High School graduate. “I know when I come back, I will be better off and everything’s been placed perfectly for me now that I’ve been hurt.”
Lowe came out of Ewing with the Colonial Valley Conference scoring record of 2,492 points after helping the Blue Devils win the NJSIAA Group III state championship as a junior and reach the finals as a senior. He jumped to Temple, where he started five games as a freshman and scored 4.8 points per game, good for sixth on the team as he made a solid transition.
“It was very good,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “The offense was ahead of the defense, but there were particular things he did on defense—for example, at the point of our three-quarters court pressure, he was hard to throw around, he’s a very good anticipator, so we were getting some good miles out of playing him at that spot. He was getting better each game. Towards the end of the year, just prior to him getting hurt, he was really our shining star against Villanova.”
Against the No. 1 team in the country that would go on to win the national championship, Lowe enjoyed his finest performance for the Owls. He scored 21 points in only 20 minutes.
“Obviously they were the best team we played all year, even though we had played North Carolina as well,” Dunphy said. “He played very well against them so you’re looking at that and projecting it and saying, ‘This kid’s going to be unbelievable.’”
“There’s just an interruption to that,” he added. “That’s the difficult piece to this. He’s working hard at it. He’s delightful to be around. He’s done well at school. He’s paying attention to all those things he has to take care of. We’re just hoping for the best.”
Eleven days after his breakout game against Villanova, Lowe was unconscious in the hospital after driving home from Rutgers the night after a noon game for Temple. He thinks he fell asleep at the wheel and his car went off the road, hit a telephone pole and flipped. He was lucky to live, and he has almost no memory of the accident.
A concussion, he suggested in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, was the least of his injuries.
“I kind of injured a lot of my upper body parts. I’m not going to get too specific,” he told the paper in an article last October. “There are certain parts of my body that are still weaker than other parts. I’m just focused on those right now, to get those back to full strength.”
Lowe said that he felt a lot of pressure before the preseason started. “I was up a lot at nighttime thinking if I played how different it could be, how different it will be. But now as the season has gone on, I had to trust in my teammates and my coaching staff that I’ll be back eventually. I’m just a cheerleader now basically.”
Dunphy visited Lowe in the hospital as soon as he heard about it, as did Ewing head coach Shelly Dearden. She went as often as she could and remains close, talking to Lowe every other day even now two seasons after she last coached him.
“Trey has a great attitude about it,” Dearden said. “It’s a setback, but he knows the hard work will get him back in the gym and playing again. From Day One, he’s done nothing but rehabbed to his fullest and looked to get back on the court and play for Temple.”
Lowe regained consciousness in the hospital two days later, and one of the first things he wanted to know was when he’d be able to play basketball again.
“I kind of figured I was going to have to redshirt this season because of how bad I was and how much time until basketball was coming up,” he said. “I just took it into consideration to give myself the benefit of the doubt, and made it about my rehabilitation. It wasn’t about everyone else. I just wanted to know how I felt.”
Lowe has attacked his rehab with the same energy he used to develop into a prolific scorer for Ewing. That drive and determination are now focused on getting him back up to speed.
“He has a hard work ethic and always has,” Dearden said. “He loved to practice. A lot of kids don’t. He loves to be on the court. It’ll definitely be rewarding when he steps back on the court to play.”
Lowe is expected to be back on the court for Temple next year, though there’s no definite timeline and no one exactly knows if he will be all the way back.
“Everybody handles it differently,” Dunphy said. “The hope is he’s getting better incrementally every day. And he is. He’s obviously going to sit out this year. He’s ready for that. He’s doing that. He’s rehabbing every day. He’s with us as much as he can possibly be with us. His spirit is good. His work ethic is good. He certainly wants to get back. He loves his team. He’s great to have around. All you want for him is a return to good health. It’s going to be a little bit of time, so we’re all hopeful.”
Dunphy added that he thinks it’s a definite that Lowe will be back next year.
“The question is of what level of play will he be at? Before got injured, he was a high, high Division I college basketball athlete. We’re not sure exactly where we are moving forward.”
Lowe is trying to get back to that point, and return a better player than he was when he got hurt. He goes to therapy every day for an hour or hour and a half, then joins the Temple basketball team during practice and gets in a workout with their trainer.
“It actually has gone a lot quicker than I expected it to be,” Lowe said. “There’s still always more room to progress. Each and every day is another step in the progress. I’m just taking it day by day and being patient and waiting.”
‘I’m learning a lot of stuff about the game of basketball. Not from being on the court, but stuff off the court.’
He works at stretching and strengthening the parts of his body weakened by the accident. He works at his ball-handling that will have to improve for him to be an even better player. He works at the shot that made prospective coaches flock after him. What is holding him off the court more than anything is the biggest difference that he noticed from high school—the physical nature of the game and how much is let go. Now it’s what keeps him out of practices.
“Anything with contact really,” Lowe said. “Practicing with contact (can’t be done). We’re waiting for that to come. Basically, it’s wait and see. They say I’ll know when my body is ready. I told them I don’t want to know any dates, I want to make my (return) date when I feel like I’m ready.”
Having a season already under his belt will help. He understands better where he needs to be to return to helping the Owls. His first year helped him grow in every aspect.
“Transition was rough at first, but once I got adjusted to it, it went pretty well,” he said. “I knew coming into college, I’d have to work for everything I wanted to get. That was my mindset coming in, just to keep working and hopefully everything would pay off.”
Lowe had to adjust to being something he hadn’t been for much of his previous career—a role player. He was used to having the pressure and expectations on him.
“That was the hard part really, being able to understand it’s not all about me anymore,” Lowe said. “Coming into a different stage and having 10 upperclassmen tell me to do anything I can do to help us win. This year would have been that year for me with the scoring aspect. Now that I’m hurt, I get to sit out an extra year and work on different parts of my game so when I come back I can do more than just score.”
Temple isn’t rushing him back into action. They are giving him every opportunity to recover and be ready for next season.
“They are giving me a lot of time to heal and rest up and get my body back to normal so I appreciate that a lot from them,” Lowe said. “It is helping me a lot. I’m learning a lot of stuff about the game of basketball. Not from being on the court, but stuff off the court.”
Lowe has been impressed by the short-handed Owls. They began the season 10-3 in their first 13 games. Lowe’s family has already been to games even though he’s not playing.
“It means a lot,” Lowe said. “I like seeing them. When they come to the games it makes me happy. They’re also there to cheer on our team, it’s not just about me, it’s about all of us.”
Dearden is following the Owls still, as well as keeping up with Lowe. She was thrilled to see Lowe’s father at a Ewing scrimmage, and the family remains close to the program that Lowe helped to raise to championship heights.
“I was very proud of him,” Dearden said. “All the hard work paid off to get him where he was, at Temple. As his high school coach, I was proud he was getting playing time as a freshman, especially at a program as good as Temple. My husband and I were there to watch him play. I went to five or six games last year. We talk this year. I still watch the games. As a high school coach, it’s very rewarding to see a player play.”
All that anyone wants now is to see him play again. As he recovers from his accident, Lowe has his family, Ewing and Temple all hoping that they will have the chance to see Lowe at his best next season. It may not be the exact path Lowe had foreseen, but he’s on track to return to the court and everyone close to him knows how much that would mean.
“It was a goal for him to play Division I and get a scholarship,” Dearden said. “He fulfilled that dream and goal. I don’t see him not trying his best to get on the court.”