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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Zaide Lowery inadvertently caught Shaka Smart’s eye — but he has turned into a go-to bench option

Zaide+Lowery+has+turned+into+one+of+Shaka+Smarts+go-to+options+off+the+bench.
Photo by Forster Goodrich
Zaide Lowery has turned into one of Shaka Smart’s go-to options off the bench.

Shaka Smart came upon Zaide Lowery by accident.  

Smart was on a recruiting trip waiting to see another player, but their game was running behind, so he decided to watch a random matchup involving an AAU team named Missouri Flight. Lowery, then a rising junior in high school, was playing on that team and immediately caught Smart’s eye.

“He just moved really, really well,” Smart said after Marquette’s win over Villanova

Now, two-and-some years later from that initial, serendipitous introduction, Lowery has become one of Smart’s go-to options off the bench in his first year at Marquette.

Some might call that fate.

The Golden Eagles have been plagued with injuries this season, most notably losing sophomore guard Sean Jones for the rest of the year with an ACL tear. But they also lost junior Stevie Mitchell for four games in December with a hamstring injury, and sophomore Chase Ross for five games in January with a separated shoulder.

The shortened benches have meant extra playing time for everyone else, especially Lowery.

Since the start of January, Lowery has played over 10 minutes in six of seven games. The one game he didn’t was at Villanova Jan. 30, when he played nine. As his playing amount has increased, so has his on-the-court awareness.

“I’ve just been trying to focus on what I need to do,” Lowery said. “I don’t need to dribble 1,000 times and try to make plays for other guys. But I just get out there and do the simple stuff.”

“And then on defense, I feel like I have a bigger role on defense than I do offense, and I just try to set the tone for the game.”

Lowery saw the court in almost all non-conference games — barring two road matchups at Illinois and Wisconsin, and in a Maui dogfight versus UCLA. But the Big East is a different, much more physical brand of basketball, something most first-years have a tough time grappling with.

To help adjust, Lowery has spent extra time in practice matching up against bigger guys.

“Going up against tough guys every day. We got Caedin Hamilton, our redshirt freshman, and Oso, Jop,” Lowery said. “Everybody’s physical. Our practices are physical. So that helps me to get ready for the games, and if I’m not physical, then I won’t be ready for the game.”

Lowery dunks the ball in Marquette’s game against Notre Dame. (Photo by Forster Goodrich)

To help build up his strength, Lowery starts each practice knocking a tire down the court and back with a sledgehammer 10 times.

“That gets me ready and aggressive,” he said.

That aggression has translated from the Al McGuire Center to Fiserv Forum, as Lowery has consistently been guarding the opposing team’s best player whenever Mitchell is on the bench.

“It’s a tough challenge,” Lowery said. “I talk to Stevie all the time about this, but whenever he does go out of the game, I talk to him, tell him I got his back. I’m gonna set the tone for when he’s not in the game.

“That’s something I have to do. Just being one of the best defenders on the team. I feel like I’m able to, I’m capable to go out there and guard the top leading scorers and the toughest guy.”

Lowery’s length — he is 6-foot-5 — and athleticism — a by-product of his childhood days as a wide receiver — allow him to defend a variety of different positions. He is a key part as to why Marquette ranks No. 11 on defensive efficiency on basketball statistics website kenpom.com, the highest ranking for any Smart-led team since 2014.

“When I first met (and) got to know him, he didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to come in the game and do what he did,” Smart said.

“Not even just the threes, but to come in the game and stand up to — I mean, Villanova’s got grown men. They got eight seniors. They got toughness, physicality. There’s nobody on their team where you can hide a guy in a matchup.

“And Zaide, he’s just grown a lot to be sturdy enough, tough enough to put him on some of those guys and for him to hang in there and play pretty well.”

Now, in the thick of conference play with the postseason inching ever closer, Lowery is going to continue to be a crucial piece off the bench. With that, he said he wants to continue improving on the little things and help however he can.

“Whether it’s box out and then somebody else go get the rebound, whether it’s shoot the ball when I’m open, play defense, guard the best player. All that stuff, that’s my role,” Lowery said. “I’m just trying to focus on that stuff.”

Fate’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Just imagine Smart never got to see Lowery, because the person he was there to watch didn’t have a delay.

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributors
Jack Albright, Executive Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a sophomore from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is the Executive Sports Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.
Forster Goodrich, Staff Photographer
Forster Goodrich is a sophomore from Lyme, New Hampshire studying digital media. Forster works on the photography desk as a Staff Photographer. Outside of the Wire, he is on the club waterski team, and enjoys everything outdoors. He is looking forward to the upcoming basketball season and getting to photograph games at Fiserv Forum.

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