By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
Lester Rowe, in his second year as an assistant coach in the West Virginia University women’s basketball program, was an outstanding player as a Mountaineer in the early 1980s.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound forward from Buffalo, N.Y., played in 123 games. It took coach Gale Catlett just five games to decide that he earned a starting lineup job, which he never relinquished.
Rowe, who has lived here the past several years, helped WVU to records of 27-4, 23-8, 20-12 and 20-9 between the 1981-82 season through the 1984-85 season.
That rounds out to a four-year aggregate of 90 wins and 33 defeats. And Rowe was a rare two-year team captain as a junior and senior.
Rowe, who turned 50 in January, was a basketball three-year All-State star at Buffalo’s Lafayette High School. He also excelled as a high jumper “just to keep in shape until basketball season rolled around again.”
He noted that the roundball sport wasn’t year-round as it is in high schools today.
“But I did enjoy both basketball and track,” he admitted. “High jumping keeps you in shape.”
He recalled that he could play basketball in club games at the YMCA, the Boys Club or on similar courts during the offseason in Buffalo. Pickup games were plentiful.
It was Dec. 18-19, 1981, when Rowe became a starter as a rookie collegiate, and he became an instant success. He led his team to victories against Manhattan and Long Island in the Mountaineer Classic at the Charleston Civic Center. The outstanding freshman earned the tournament’s MVP award.
He made several all-tournament teams, and all four of the Atlantic 10 all-conference teams, even as a rookie.
Rowe completed his four-year playing career here ranked No. 12 among all-time WVU scorers with 1,524 points.
Besides averaging 12.6 points per game, he shot a sizzling 54.9 percent from the field (593 of 1,095) and cashed 338 of 524 free throws for his 1,524 point-total.
Rowe also logged 787 rebounds (6.5 average per game) and 176 assists.
His career highs included 29 points versus Rhode Island, 12 field goals versus Marshall and also Rhode Island, FG attempts 21 versus Marshall and UNLV, FTs made 12 versus Rhode Island, FTs attempted 14 versus Indiana Pa., and rebounds 15 versus Rutgers, Temple and Robert Morris.
He ranks among the career leaders in field goals made, FG percentage and rebounds. He is a member of the WVU all-time team for his playing period.
Rowe played professional basketball for eight years in Argentina, the Philippines, Venezuela, France, Germany and the U.S.
“My wife, Lisa, and I really enjoyed that experience. She accompanied me on that trip,” Rowe said.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from WVU in sport management in 1985.
He has been a commercial property manager and sales executive with the Parry Petroplus real estate firm since 2002.
Rowe served as an assistant basketball coach for Catlett’s coaching staff for five years and joined Mike Carey’s basketball women’s staff in June 2011.
Lester and Lisa have two daughters: Monalisa, 21, and Monique, 19.
“It’s a blessing just to be back working here and coaching at the university,” Rowe said. “I love WVU and I love this state.”