When Luke Loewe entered the NCAA transfer portal this spring, his ideal destination had as much to do with his passion for fishing as his desire to seek a higher level of basketball.
The William & Mary grad transfer actually had his eye on Minnesota and the Land of 10,000 Lakes even before new Gophers coach Ben Johnson was hired in March.
Playing in the Big Ten was a plus for Loewe, but returning to his Midwest roots as an aspiring pro fisherman was a top priority as well.
"There are a lot of great opportunities up here," said Loewe, a Fond du Lac, Wis., native. "A lot of great fishermen. I've been connecting with some of the better anglers around Minnesota, which has been cool."
One of eight transfers to join the Gophers, Loewe adds leadership, three-point shooting and defense to the backcourt. He transformed from a rarely used reserve to an all-league guard in the Colonial Athletic Association.Not bad for someone who was better known in high school for his fishing skills than his jump shot.
Before high school, Loewe won the 2013 Junior Bass Fishing Federation World Championships in Shreveport, La., for the 11-14 age division, while also capturing state titles in Wisconsin.
At 15, Loewe won Wisconsin's Bass Federation High School Championship against 30 competitors in 2015. By then, he already had his own custom-made fishing rods.
It all started when his father, Jason, taught him to fish at Green Lake in Ripon, Wis. His younger brother, Jackson, is now following in his footsteps after winning a youth tournament there in June.
"I fished a ton of youth tournaments and was successful doing that," Loewe said. "Really enjoyed it. The older I got after going to high school, most of my time was spent with basketball in the winter and summer in AAU. But whenever I had time off, I would go fishing. That's kind of what I do."
Even at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Loewe bought his own boat and fished in the offseason. His commitment to developing on the hard court was evident as well. He went from averaging 1.1 points as a freshman to 16.2 his senior season, earning all-league second-team and all-defensive honors.
"Luke absolutely flourished as a player," said Gophers assistant Jason Kemp, who coached Loewe at William & Mary for two seasons. "He became our best defender. He guarded the best perimeter player on the court every single game. He shot 40 percent from three. He really developed his ballhandling, which helped him his senior year when he had to be more of a catalyst for us offensively."
Loewe committed to the Gophers in late March, beforeKemp was hired to join Johnson's staff. Then Loewe's former William & Mary teammate Nathan Knight signed a two-way contract with the Timberwolves, bringing yet another connection to Minnesota.
"It's pretty cool that they both ended up here as well," Loewe said. "At first when I had to tell Coach Kemp I was transferring, it was kind of tough because of how close I was with him. But it was kind of just crazy timing how things worked out. The pieces fell into place."
For Loewe, other familiar faces in the Twin Cities area include relatives in Hudson, Wis., and Minnetonka — and it didn't take long before they were going on fishing trips together.
Loewe and his 13-year-old cousin, Sam, competed in a bass tournament at Lake Minnetonka in September. They have also had their own friendly competitions with Kemp and several Gophers players.
"It's fun because he always wants to go out whenever he has free time," Sam said. "Sometimes we'll film videos. He really likes to do the videos and he's a really good fisherman, too."
Loewe has his own fishing channel on YouTube and Instagram, "Bass and Buckets," that has attracted thousands of viewers since its debut last year. A 2-on-2 bass competition with Gophers players this fall included Loewe and Eric Curry defeating their teammates Parker Fox and Treyton Thompson.
"Treyton is pretty good," Loewe said. "Eric went out one time and he was completely hooked. He caught a bunch of fish. He thinks he's the best. For the first time, he did pretty well. He's always asking me to go."
With the NCAA's new name, image, and likeness rules, Loewe can earn money from his fishing exploits. With the Gophers season getting closer, it will be time to shift all of his focus to his fifth season of college basketball, but he's glad he doesn't have to keep his two passions separate in Minnesota.
"With the NIL stuff, I don't mind if they combine," Loewe said. "I want people to know that I love both. That's kind of what I do: basketball and bass fishing."