FOND DU LAC – It was an innocuous moment, but one Luke Loewe can vividly recall months later.
Following three standout years at Ripon, Loewe was about to begin his senior season on the Fond du Lac boys basketball team after transferring over the summer. Unfortunately, a November car crash that left Loewe with a sore right shoulder, bruised right lung and skull fracture behind his right ear derailed the start of his senior campaign.
In the midst of his rehabilitation, all Loewe wanted to do was shoot a basketball, something he’d done countless times in his life, but had been deprived of for weeks.
“After a girls practice, I don’t even remember why I was in the gym, but I remember I had a ball in my locker and I went and shot a ball for the first time (since the accident),” Loewe said. “In an offseason, I’ll shoot thousands of shots but I guess I’d never really think of how meaningful shooting a basketball is when you’re shooting a thousand shots. When you get put in a situation like I was in and then you get to shoot a ball for the first time after the scariest thing that’s happened in my life, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It brought me back to shooting the ball as a kid and really made me think about life.”
Loewe had a new-found appreciation for the sport of basketball, and life in general, after a split-second moment that easily could have ended his blossoming career.
But it didn’t. Loewe would recover. And he would make the most of every opportunity he had to play basketball after nearly seeing it all taken away.
Nothing came easy. It took Loewe awhile to get back into the groove. Missing the first four games of the season, Loewe returned on Dec. 20 for a contest at Neenah.
It wouldn’t be until after the new year that he was back to his old self, or at least close to it.
That’s when Loewe showed why he’s regarded as one of the top point guards in the state.
In leading Fond du Lac to a 15-9 record and third-place finish in the Fox Valley Association, Loewe averaged 20.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He shot over 55 percent from the floor and buried 34 3-pointers.
He was a first team All-Fox Valley Association selection and was recently named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 1 all-state team.
Add one more honor to Loewe’s incredible senior season — 2016-17 Action Reporter Media All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Loewe beat out Waupun sophomore Marcus Domask, a WBCA Division 3 all-state selection, and Laconia senior Drew Gunnink, the Flyway Conference Player of the Year and a WBCA Division 4 all-state pick, for this year’s title.
Loewe is joined on the all-area first team by Domask, Gunnink, Mayville’s Caleb Martin and Fond du Lac teammate Sam Fredrickson.
While the numbers Loewe recorded in 2016-17 are phenomenal in their own right, putting them in perspective with the fact that he began the season recovering from a car wreck makes them even more impressive.
Fond du Lac coach Mark Ziebell was simply in awe of his star senior during points of the year — not only for what he could do on the court, but for what he had to overcome to be in position to do it.
“When you watched him when he first came back, knowing that he obviously wasn’t 100 percent, I think speaks to his toughness,” Ziebell said. “The willingness to know that he’s not at 100 percent, but come back and play for his teammates and play for the school. … I don’t know the whole story and there has to be more going on behind the scenes in terms of family and getting his body ready to be able to do that, but I just think toughness when you think about that.
“Work ethic, you think about that. It was a lot of work for him to get back. Once he was cleared to do some activity, even a little bit before that, he was already in the swimming pool working on range of motion with his shoulder. You think of all the work ethic he had to have just to be able to get himself ready to get on floor. Then the work on the floor to get back to being close to 100 percent again … Toughness and work ethic are things I think about with him.”
With Loewe back on the court, Fond du Lac was a much different squad. Losing three of their first four games without Loewe, the Cardinals transformed into one of the best teams in the FVA with him on the floor.
He helped engineer two wins against defending WIAA Division 2 state champion Kaukauna as well as an upset against Kimberly, ranked No. 2 in Division 1 at the time. While the season didn’t end with a conference championship or run to state, Loewe did his part in making Fond du Lac a team that could compete with just about anybody.
More than any of his physical abilities, Loewe felt he brought leadership to the Cardinals this season.
“I just wanted to be a leader for the team and just try to be as vocal and be a leader on the court and off the court,” he said. “Lead by example and try to make the guys around me better. Bring as much as I could to the team on the floor when I played. Just try to make them better.”
Ziebell felt that the team simply played with a certain confidence with Loewe on the court, not to mention the many ways he could contribute on both ends of the floor.
“The kids knew the kind of player that he was and I think that was really, really important to the team,” Ziebell said. “I think it automatically gave a lift to the team. That kind of overrode everything.
“On the floor, his ability to handle the basketball (was important). We didn’t face a whole lot of pressure this year like we did the first couple of games (without him). He was able to handle pressure for us and get us into offense. His ability to score — you put him in a pick and roll situation and he’s very dangerous. He could rise up and shoot, he could make a great pass to his teammate or he could split it and make a play for himself at the rim. … On the defensive end, it took him a little while to get his feet underneath him but he was such a wonderful athlete that you could put him on a (Ryan) Krueger (of Hortonville) and he’d have success. You could put him on a (Danny) Vanden Boom. He held Vanden Boom to two points the game we beat Kimberly. Luke could take him out and that was one less guy you had to worry about.”
Loewe will soon be heading to the College of William & Mary to begin his NCAA Division I men’s basketball career, but has left his mark at Fond du Lac in one short year. He, along with a solid supporting cast, brought a level of excitement to the Fond du Lac boys basketball program that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
Ziebell believes that what Loewe accomplished, what he overcame and the manner in which he did it will influence the program for years to come. It’s also made an impact on Ziebell himself, who knows just how rare it is to come across someone like Loewe.
“When you go to talk to youth kids at their practices or year-round and you talk to them about Fond du Lac basketball, they all mention Luke’s name,” Ziebell said. “All the kids love him and they all watched him and I think he’ll have a lasting impact in our program.
“You talk about his impact on the youth and so on, I think there’s an impact with me as well. Early on, when I first started coaching, I had a lot of really good kids that kind of remind me of Luke a little bit, except Luke’s a way better basketball player than those kids were. But they were good, hard-working character type kids and at the time, I didn’t know any difference because it was my first couple years. Now that I’ve been doing it a long time, those kids don’t come along all that often. Now you appreciate someone that has high character and a good work ethic and wants to be successful and does it the right way. You really appreciate that even more. As the year unfolded, I just tried to enjoy and appreciate what was happening.”
2016-17 Action Reporter Media All-Area Boys Basketball Team
Marcus Domask, Soph., Waupun
Sam Fredrickson, Senior, Fond du Lac
Drew Gunnink, Senior, Laconia
Luke Loewe, Senior, Fond du Lac
Caleb Martin, Senior, Mayville
Caleb Goldstein, Senior, Fond du Lac
Noah Lorenz, Junior, Winnebago Lutheran
Jaylen Mahone, Junior, Laconia
Owen Theune, Junior, Waupun
Koy Walsh, Senior, Campbellsport
Honorable mention: Campbellsport: Sonny Johnson, Senior; Connor Kissinger, Junior. Fond du Lac: Drew Jorgensen, Junior. Laconia: Keegan Grade, Senior. Lomira: Conrad Haeni, Junior; Kenny Immel, Soph. Mayville: Sawyer Breselow, Senior. North Fond du Lac: Dawson Wodsedalek, Junior. Oakfield: Johnny Bovee, Senior; Joe Ruplinger, Senior. St. Mary’s Springs: Blake Bauer, Senior; Cade Christensen, Soph.; Blake Ottery, Senior; Clay Schueffner, Junior. Waupun: Reece Homan, Soph.; Trevor Vande Zande, Soph. Winnebago Lutheran: Alex Kuehl, Junior; Eric Schmitz, Senior; Zach Wright, Senior.