NORCROSS — Specialists, by definition, are particularly proficient at some specific activity or job.
To be sure, Thomas Lowman has been especially good for Greater Atlanta Christian’s boys lacrosse team since being moved from his normal position on defense to the long stick midfielder position at the beginning of his sophomore season in 2019.
However, it was his ability to branch out and succeed even beyond his specialty that made the 2021 Daily Post Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year so valuable for the Spartans this spring.
Sure, Lowman made his expected contributions with his primary duty of marking and helping neutralize the opposing team’s best midfielder, part of which manifested itself into 23 forced turnovers.
However, he also gave his team a boost with 70 ground balls, and even contributed seven goals and two assists offensively in helping GAC (14-8) to an Area 1-A/AAAAA championship and a berth in the Class A-AAAAA semifinals this spring. He also was named first-team All-State by Georgia’s lacrosse coaches, as well as earning All-American honors.
Those offensive numbers may seem somewhat pedestrian, but only underscore just how versatile Lowman has been throughout his career, as far as Spartans head coach Tim Ball is concerned.
“He was able to put up a few goals and assists because of his stickhandling ability,” Ball said of Lowman. “During practice, he would go with the defense when we were going over strategy and things like that. When it came down to working on the fundamental part of defense in practice, a lot of times he would go with the midfielders and attackers and work on shooting. So he’s participated in shooting drills quite a bit.
“That’s (how) he was able to put up some of those numbers. Ground balls, he’d have a lot of those, of course, at the midfield position. But a lot of those would come because we’d put him on the wing on face-offs, as well, because he was such a great ground ball player. And (he was) helping Aidan (Bailey), who broke our school record for face-off percentage. Aidan won a lot of them to himself, but the ones he didn’t, he typically won them towards Thomas.”
Lowman’s big-time 2021 season was the culmination of a career that saw him post 19 goals, three assists and 152 groundballs despite a 2020 season abbreviated to just seven games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, his evolution from a freshman defender to a multi-talented LSM was more a steady process than a sudden emergence, one in which Lowman and Ball both credit GAC assistant coach Scott Ratliff in helping cultivate.
“As an LSM, Coach Ratliff taught me a lot of stuff, which is a big part of it,” Lowman said. “He was a great role model for how I was supposed to play. He taught me about scoring in transition because when I started playing LSM, I was not very good at scoring. I wasn’t very confident with the ball on my stick. So it was hard to get up and down the field because you’re thinking, ‘Just get the ball up to the (other) midfielders and go up and just let them do their job.’
“So you have to have to kind of just be really aggressive, but also very aware when you do strip the (opponent) and get that ball out, you’re going to have to pick up the ball in traffic and get away and go make a play.”
As much of an influence as Ratliff and Ball were in Lowman’s development at the LSM position, there were certain things he simply had to do for himself.
No matter how much knowledge as they could give him, Lowman still had to put in a lot of physical work to gain the conditioning he needed to run up and down the field, as well as get enough reps in practice to develop the specific skills needed for him to handle the longer stick.
“I did a lot of extra conditioning,” said Lowman, who also has been a key player for the Spartans’ football team. “That was the main thing, just making sure that I could run for a long time and be able to give my best effort the whole time out in the field. So really, it’s just a matter of conditioning, and then keeping (my) footwork good so I can not only do well on the wings, but also cover the (opponent’s) best attacker.
“It’s just a lot of spending extra time after practice hitting the wall or taking reps full speed and shooting hard, starting close and getting your stick dialed in. A big part of shooting with the long stick is, … you’ve got a lot more range. So you’ve got to be more accurate from farther away, which is hard with the long stick, but with all the hours that I put in, I got pretty decent at it.”
But perhaps the qualities Ball valuled most from Lowman this year, and for his career, stemmed from his the leadership he combined to provide with his large senior class.
Between him, fellow two-year team captain Joseph Rose and fellow specialist in Bailey, the Spartans’ FOGO, the seniors set a winning example for all.
“Well, I’ll tell you, we had 15 seniors this year,” Ball said. “And I believe (that) including Aidan and Jo Jo (Rose) and T-Lo, they’ve been playing together since youth league, all 15 of them. Honestly, I don’t think very many dropped off at all. … I think all 15 of them were on our middle school team that won the Atlanta middle school championship.
“They all were so different from one another, yet they complemented each other so well. Jo Jo and Thomas have been such great friends forever. They both actually started their freshman year. Those two are the only two who have been voted by the team to be captains their junior year. … Aidan started coming on more his sophomore year. … The chemistry among our seniors was just great. For Thomas to get this award, … it’s really as much reflective of those (other) 14 (seniors) as it is Thomas because they’ve just been that close.”
Lowman’s next stop will be the University of Michigan, but he vows to take the lessons he learned his Spartans teammates and continue being a good teammate for the Wolverines.
“It wasn’t just me, it was my whole team,” Lowman said. “Aidan Bailey was one of the best face-off guys in (Gwinnett) County and even in the state. Will Gary, who was also an amazing transition midfielder, was the best defensive midfielder in the state. So having those guys alongside of me … relieved a little pressure on me.”