Steve Rowell always strove to be the hardest worker on the court.
Sure the former Rockport High School and University of Rhode Island basketball great had the raw talent, but it was that drive that took his game to the next level.
On June 22, Rowell’s hard work and basketball career will be honored when he is inducted to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the DCU Center in Worcester. The event will include a series of panel discussions featuring a number of former NBA and WNBA players as well as University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
“I would never dare dream that I would have a seat at that table,” Rowell said. “It certainly is a tribute that I share with my family, friends, teammates and coaches. There are a lot of people who have supported me over the years.”
Rowell has left a lasting legacy at both Rockport High and the University of Rhode Island as one of the best players to ever step on the hardwood at both schools.
A 1969 graduate of Rockport HS, Rowell and the Vikings won a state title during his sophomore year in 1967, a team that is still the greatest basketball squad to play at the school. Rowell was quick to credit teammates such as Frank Davis, Steve O’Connor and Steve Andersen.
“I had a ton of great teammates on that team,” Rowell said. “I’m not sure we will ever see a team like that again from a tiny town like Rockport.”
It was on a variety of local courts all over Cape Ann where Rowell sculpted his game. Whether it was on the floor at Rockport High School or a pickup game on an outdoor court, Rowell was playing ball and looking to improve his game.
“There was always a game somewhere,” Rowell said. “And we always went at each other and competed hard. It helped in my development and kind of toughened me up. I just enjoyed the competition.”
From Rockport High, Rowell played basketball at the University of Rhode Island becoming one of the school’s most prolific scorers. His 1,890 career points at the school are amongst the top five individual scoring totals amassed at URI. He helped the team to a Yankee Conference title in 1971 and is a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame along with his wife Linda, who was a women’s basketball standout at the school. He was drafted by the New York Knicks, the defending NBA champs at the time, in the eighth round of the NBA Draft in 1973.
“When I got the call from New York, I was so happy,” Rowell said. “Then reality set in. They were the defending champions at the time and there wasn’t much in the way of roster space with players like Willis Reed, Phil Jackson and Walt Frazier on the roster.”
The Rockport standout then took his game to Europe, playing professionally in France until a knee injury hampered his pro career. It was then where Rowell decided to become an educator. For 25 years Rowell served as Rockport High’s Director of Athletics and was also the school’s Dean of Students.
His legacy is still strong in Rockport as the high school’s gymnasium was named in his honor and the basketball court was named the “Stephen A. Rowell Basketball Court.”
Through his outstanding career as both an athlete and an educator, it is the hard work that Rowell credits for his success.
“I wanted to become one of the hardest workers in America,” Rowell said. “Just in hopes that I could become a decent player and help my team win, that was the way I went about it.”