Florida's Lowe knows what it means to go on a road trip


Florida guard Sarah Lowe knows her way around a globe nearly as much as a basketball.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 1:26 a.m.
The Florida Gators remember the pick-up games going deep into the summer. Sarah Lowe remembers watching the deep blue Pacific Ocean from the shores of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The Gators remember perfecting their jump shot in the gym. Lowe remembers perfecting her Spanish on the streets of Valencia, Spain.
The Gators remember sweating through long workouts in the weight room. Lowe remembers sweating through horseback rides outside Guanajuato, Mexico.
Last summer, a time when most Division I basketball players stick around campus to hone their skills, Lowe was studying abroad in Mexico and Spain. That may seem unusual. Unless you know Sarah Lowe.
"I'm never surprised at what Sarah does because it's not going to be what your typical athlete does," said Villanova forward Kate Dessart Mager, Lowe's close friend and former AAU teammate. "Sarah is the most unique person I've ever met. She's always looking for the biggest adventure and she's not content being just a typical person."
Florida's 20-year-old junior point guard has already lived many adventures. Lowe attended the same high school as NBA star Kobe Bryant in Wynnewood, Pa. She speaks fluent Spanish. She sponsors a little sister through Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Gainesville. She also forced the entire women's basketball team to register for last November's presidential election.
But what has shaped much of Lowe's outlook on life has been her travels. She has visited seven countries and once spent 10 days on a 51-mile canoe trip through Canyonland National Park in Utah. Lowe sees life in a way most college athletes don't.
"(Traveling) definitely gives you that world view," Lowe said. "While we're living here, in another part of the world there's a whole other life going on that's completely far and different from anything we know. A lot of people don't think outside of that. They're very narrow-minded and very narrow-focused in the here and now and what's around them. (Traveling) has made me realize there's so much more out there. There's more to life than what we go through each day."

Summer abroad

Florida coach Carolyn Peck and Lowe talked about Lowe's travels when each arrived at Florida prior to the 2002-03 season. Peck wasn't keen on Lowe leaving Gainesville for the summer after her freshman season. But last summer that changed.
"We felt like after her freshman year, she was a leader on this team and needed to be here (in the summer)," Peck said. "But after her sophomore year, she had done everything we had asked. So there was no reason to keep her from accomplishing her goals."
So Lowe packed her bags and traded the plush confines of Florida's basketball facility and comfort of campus for a host family in Guanajuato, Mexico. Lowe and another UF student lived with a Mexican family and took classes - all taught in Spanish - via UF's study abroad program.
Lowe, who began learning Spanish in sixth grade, had her language skills put to the test.
"You had to transcend the language there because my (host) family spoke no English," Lowe said. "Mexico was valuable to me for that reason. And my (host) family felt like it was my own family. They treated me like a daughter."
Lowe stayed active by finding pick-up basketball games and going on nature excursions. She spent another part of her summer studying in Valencia, Spain.
Conversely, the remainder of the Gators stayed in Gainesville working out through the summer. Lowe said rejoining her team was hard.
"I definitely felt like the odd man out at first," she said. "But after the first few days, I would say it was back to normal as if I'd been here all summer."
Lowe has become an old hand at traveling. Her world travels are so extensive, she reels off the countries she's visited like a mental grocery list. There's Costa Rica, France, Spain, Mexico, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria.
And these aren't vacations. Lowe participated in a Spanish exchange program in Costa Rica during her sophomore year of high school. Her AAU team, the Philadelphia Belles, played in Vienna, Budapest and Prague during the summer of 2001. Traveling, it seems, has always charged Lowe's blood.
"It's eye opening," Lowe said. "One of the craziest things to think about is: When I'm over there I'm in a completely different world per se. And my world back home is still going on without me."

Diversity

The only thing more diverse than Lowe's passport may be her family background. Lowe is the daughter of an African-American father and a Caucasian mother.
Lowe's parents divorced when she was three years old. Lowe lived with her mother, who got remarried when Lowe was five to a man with two adopted children from Colombia.
Lowe grew up with her mother, stepfather, older brother, stepbrother and stepsister just outside of Philadelphia. From her earliest memories Lowe was taught to be accepting of all people.
"That's how we were raised," Lowe said. "That's how my family taught us to be. All of us were different. My mom and my stepdad were raising two bi-racial children and two Hispanic children. For me to be unaccepting of other people would make me a hypocrite."
Those who know Lowe agree that her diverse family background has had an impact on her outlook on life.
"That's probably been the biggest thing that's shaped her," Dessart Mager said. "She has such a diverse family and they're so nice and so different. That has definitely shaped her."
Lowe has made her college life diverse, as well. She is involved with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and is a member of Savant - a highly regarded leadership honorary society.
Off campus, Lowe works with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Gainesville. She has a little sister from Lincoln Middle School who comes from a single parent home.
"Seeing the impact one person can make makes me want to do nonprofit work," Lowe said. "I'm really motivated to make a difference. I want to help people have opportunities they wouldn't have had."
Then last fall, Lowe did something very out of the ordinary. But it wasn't unusual to those who know her. Lowe forced the entire women's basketball team - in addition to dozens of other UF athletes - to register for the November presidential election.
"She's strong in what she believes in," Florida guard Tishona Gregory said. "She said it doesn't matter who you vote for. Just go vote. Everyone listens to Sarah."

Fan favorite

Lowe's life at Florida could be strictly about basketball if she wanted. After all, she's one of the most popular players among Gators fans. She's liked because she plays the game hard, with relentless energy. And she's identifiable because of her soft, green eyes and curly brown hair. Altogether, she's the most recognizable face of Florida women's basketball.
"She has the eyes and the hair that everyone recognizes and is immediately drawn to," Dessart Mager said. "Little kids want to be like her. Teenage girls want to be like her. But she's so modest, she'll never say that. But all those kids are always wanting her autograph."
Lowe has no delusions about the fact she might not have a future in professional basketball. And that's fine. She wants to be more than a basketball player.
She wants to write a senior thesis on how free trade in Costa Rica has affected the indigenous people there. She wants to try graduate school.
More than anything, though, she wants to be different. "One word to describe Sarah would be unique," Florida forward Tashia Morehead said. "She's her own person and she's a young leader. All you can do is respect that."
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman at zimmerb@gvillesun.com by calling 374-5051.

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