Mitch Lowder laughed when talking about an honor which has been 32 years in the making.
Lowder, the popular girls’ head basketball coach at North Central High School, was named as an assistant to A.C. Flora head girls’ coach Patti Moore to help guide the North All-Stars against their counterparts from the South in the annual North-South All-Star basketball games to be played on Saturday, March 21 at Lexington High School. The girls’ contest will tip off at 3 p.m. with the boys’ all-star game to follow.
With a roster which has been dominated by underclassmen during Lowder’s seven years as head coach, the Lady Knights have not had that breakout campaign for which they hope. Yet, Lowder has earned enough respect from his colleagues in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association that he was named to be a coach in the organization’s showcase contest.
"I was honored to be asked and it’s an honor to coach in this game and to coach the 12 best seniors in the Upper State," Lowder said of his being tabbed as an assistant coach. "South Carolina is rich with basketball talent and it is great to be involved in this type of an all-star game."
A Fort Mill native and a graduate of Fort Mill High School, Lowder has been a staple on the Kershaw County athletics scene since being hired at Lugoff-Elgin High School in 1983. At the time, he was an assistant football coach under Rut Dingle in the fall before being Homer Carraway’s right hand man with the Demons’ boys’ basketball team in the winter months.
In Lowder’s first year with Carraway, L-E played for the AA state basketball championship at the Carolina Coliseum, losing in overtime to Andrews. Lowder said he will never forget that experience.
"That was a great year and a great (championship) game," he said. "I still think about that game every day. It’s one of those games that you don’t forget."
Lowder also helped Carraway for one season as an assistant baseball coach at L-E. He also was the head coach of the Demons’ tennis team which played in a pair of AA Upper State championship matches in a team led by brothers Jay and Will Reeves.
Lowder left the Palmetto State for Florida in 1990, taking a job at Southeast High School in Bradenton, Fla. At the time, however, houses were "not moving" and after one year in Florida, Lowder and his family returned home to Kershaw County and took over as the head basketball coach at North Central High School in 1991.
In 10 seasons at the Knights’ helm, Lowder led his team to the state tournament on eight occasions. His 1992-93 squad won the Region 3-A title and Lowder was selected as the conference coach of the year, none too small a feat given the circuit included perennial state power Great Falls and its legendary head coach John Smith.
He also served as an assistant football coach with the Knights and was the program’s offensive coordinator before holding other titles through four head coaches at the school in his tenure. "I’m just glad all the coaches we’ve had kept me on staff," said Lowder who continues as an assistant on Louis Clyburn’s staff at the school.
What Lowder was unable to do as an assistant coach with Carraway in 1984, he was able to accomplish 15 years later when he guided North Central to the class A softball crown when the Lady Knights swept Lamar in two games for the school’s first and only team state title.
Lowder led the Lady Knights to a pair of region championships and was the Region 3-A coach of the year on two occasions before earning the state class A coach of the year in 1999. Always humble, Lowder shifted the spotlight from himself when talking about the softball program which he became a part of in Boonetown.
"Mike Garity left me in great shape when I took over as head coach," he said of his predecessor at the Lady Knight helm.
Stepping away from softball and basketball in 2001, Lowder was working in an administrative position at North Central when then-head girls’ basketball coach Ira Owens approached Lowder about helping him. Ever one to help a young coach, Lowder agreed to take the seat next to Owens on the Lady Knights’ bench. And when Owens decided to give up the head coaching slot coming into the 2008-09 season, Lowder was asked to take over the reins, which he did and continues to do.
For the past five years, Lowder has served on the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association’s Board of Directors and he has been the region basketball coordinator for four years.
Now, after a career in which he has stressed having fun and playing hard, Mitch Lowder is getting his chance to coach some of the best high school girls’ basketball talent which South Carolina has to offer. And, he is not changing his approach. "We only have four practices with the girls and you can only play man-to-man defense so, were either going to shoot threes or lay it up," he said with a laugh before turning serious.
"It’s great to be a part of this, though," he said of the all-star experience. "I know there are a lot more deserving coaches than me out there. But I really do appreciate this opportunity to work with our coaching staff and the kids we will have on our team."
Priester to coach in boys’ tilt:
Camden Military Academy graduate and former CMA head basketball coach Ricardo Priester will be an assistant coach for the North boys team. He coached at his alma mater for three seasons after having played collegiately at Wingate.
Priester completed his 10th season as head coach at Lancaster High School. In 13 seasons, his teams have won 158 games. He has a 27 players who have earned college basketball scholarships (15 at CMA and 12 at LHS), with four Bruins players currently playing college basketball. Former CMA standout Larry Blair, whom Priester coached, is playing professional basketball in Qatar after a standout career at Liberty University.
"It’s a tremendous honor to be selected from among so many great coaches across our state," Priester said in an interview with the Lancaster News. "I’m extremely humbled to be a part of this game. The game of basketball is special to me and it has provided me with so many great opportunities throughout my life and the opportunity to serve as a coach in a game that highlights our state’s best is priceless to me."Lowder is not the only coach with local ties coaching in the North-South All-Star Games.