NEW CANAAN—Boston College’s early interest, combined with its location, were enough to lure St. Luke’s Sydney Lowery north to become an Eagle.

“They sent me a letter in the end of my eighth grade year and that’s where I got involved with a lot of different teams and coaches so I got a lot of interest letters,” Lowery, a senior combo-guard at St. Luke’s, said. “BC was my first and when I went to the campus I just fell in love.”

The Massachusetts school’s proximity was close enough that Lowery could be near loved ones, but far enough that she could gain a sense of independence in the next step of her basketball career and young adulthood.

What stands-out with Lowery on the court isn’t just her ability to play the game, but to act as an on-court coach, seamlessly bridging the gap between staff and player.

“Sydney’s talent and her basketball skills are obvious to anybody that sees her,” former St. Luke’s coach Joe Heinzmann said. “What separates her is that she’s a real coach’s player, she understands what you’re trying to do as a team, she understand on both ends of the floor what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s another leader you have out there, it’s another coach you have, she understands the game at a level beyond her years.”

That understanding came out of necessity, as from 11-years-old on Lowery played with teams older than her, and was forced to mature quickly.

“I think I have a lot of experience compared to a lot of players because I started very seriously in fifth grade and I always played up in age,” Lowery said. “So I had to play to that level and always be thinking ahead of the game because the girls were older and quicker than me; experience has definitely played a big role in helping me for the future.”

Lowery still isn’t satisfied, and plans to use her senior year to gain more leadership experience that she hopes will translate to the Division I level in college.

“I still have to think about the next level and being a coach on the floor because that’s what I’m going to have to be playing at guard in college,” Lowery said. “I have to be able to see things that other players can’t see, my level of maturity and IQ have to go up this year to be ready for next year.”

At her side, as she has been for the entirety of Lowery’s St. Luke’s career, is assistant Jen Pokorney, who as a former college athlete has taken Lowery under her wing.

“If it weren’t for Pokorney’s leadership,” Heinzmann started. “Not only as a coach, but as a teacher and a mentor and as a former college basketball player showing another young woman the ropes on how to grow as a person as a basketball player and as a leader it would’ve been a much tougher road for Sydney. I don’t think you can overestimate the impact someone like her has on a player like Sydney.”

Lowery helped lead the Storm to both the FAA regular-season and tournament titles last season, and her signature moment came in the tournament finals—a 59-55 win over Hamden Hall in which the then-junior tallied 23 points and 16 rebounds.

Late in the game St. Luke’s had a lead and Lowery was on the bench with an ankle injury, but when Hamden Hall rallied to take the lead Lowery was thrust into action with the title on the line.

“She was on one leg and got the ball in a big spot with a chance to take the lead and she missed the shot,” Heinzmann said. “We had a stop and the next possession, we came down and she ended up getting the ball in a good spot—she got fouled going to the basket and not only did she make the basket but also the free throw to put us up and that’s a clutch player; one who fails the first time and says, ‘give me the ball again, I got this,” and does it.” @reportedbytheAP