Paul Rowley’s offseason so far has not resembled that of most other Division I basketball players. A 6-foot-8 William & Mary captain from Purcellville, Rowley completed his first year of law school at W&M and then worked as a summer associate at the Norfolk law firm of Willcox Savage.
Rowley (ROE-ly), who redshirted as a true freshman during the 2014-15 season, graduated magna cum laude from W&M in three years with a double major in computer science and finance, then moved to law school while continuing to play for the Tribe.
Rowley, the first W&M men’s basketball player since 1912 to be named Phi Beta Kappa, will play his fourth and final season as a second-year law student in 2018-19.
While he’s a student-athlete, Rowley’s basketball scholarship covers costs associated with law school, a three-year commitment. “I’ve been trying to plant the seed to be a grad assistant [coach] in that [third year],” Rowley said. “We’ll see if the track leads to that.”
The managing partner at Willcox Savage, Robert L. Dewey, said Tuesday that the firm typically doesn’t employ summer associates after their first years of law school. Rowley, 21, represented an exception, “because of his outstanding record,” Dewey said.
Time management appears to be one of Rowley’s gifts. Basketball during the season occupies about 40 hours a week, “and law school is a full-time job as it is,” Dewey said.
During his paid six weeks with Willcox Savage, Rowley did research and writing, but Dewey said he also included Rowley in a couple of meetings with clients on real estate matters.
“I think Paul will make a great lawyer,” Dewey said.
Rowley, a graduate of Loudoun Valley High School, worked 9-5 days at Willcox Savage, and then tried to mix in some basketball training in downtown Norfolk, where he lived.
As a summer associate, “Mostly what I was doing was, ‘Hey, I have this issue: These two parties had a contract. This went wrong. How does that play out under Virginia law? How does that play out under New York law?’” Rowley said. “It was my job to do some, hopefully, fairly thorough research and find a conclusive answer.”
Rowley completed his summer work at Willcox Savage and recently returned to Williamsburg for team basketball training. Tony Shaver, the Tribe’s coach since 2003, refers to Rowley as “a shining example of our great student-athletes.” Prior to becoming W&M’s coach, Shaver directed Hampden-Sydney’s program. At H-SC, Shaver coached Griff Aldrich, who became a successful lawyer in Texas and then shifted to college basketball coaching. Aldrich in March was named Longwood’s coach.
As a junior last season for the 19-12 Tribe (11-7 CAA), Rowley averaged 6.2 points and 2.4 rebounds while playing 20 minutes per game. He converted 44 percent from 3-point distance (48 of 109), which helped W&M earn the unofficial title of “best shooting team in NCAA history.”
The Tribe became the first Division I basketball team to convert at least 50 percent of its attempts from the field (51.1), at least 40 percent of its 3-point tries (43.4), and at least 80 percent of its foul shots (81). The 3-point line entered college basketball for the 1986-87 season.
In early March, the CAA named Rowley its male scholar-athlete of the year, a selection by the league’s Academic Affairs Committee. Three days later, in the CAA semifinals at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C., Rowley scored 14 points in an 83-73 loss to top-seeded Charleston, which won the championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
The Tribe’s defeat continued a dubious distinction. Among the original 160 Division I schools, William & Mary, Army, St. Francis (N.Y.) and The Citadel are the only ones that haven’t participated in the NCAA tournament. That absence masks the Tribe’s recent success. W&M averaged 19.2 victories in the past five seasons, a stretch during which W&M leads all CAA teams in league wins and overall wins.
“Obviously making the NCAA tournament is thrilling, having (worked) at a few schools that have done it,” said Samantha Huge, W&M’s director of athletics. “People look at that one thing, but this program is remarkable, not only on the floor, but the students it produces and the character that they have, and the citizens that not only they are for us now, but how they go on and lead lives of impact. It’s incredible.”
Shaver asked Rowley not to whistle while he plays. Rowley said he whistled because he has fun on a basketball court. Numerous photos show him in games with a wide smile.
“We had a team meeting [Monday] and one of the first points coach wanted to stress was appreciation. Be appreciative of the opportunities. Be appreciative of our coaching staff, our support staff. There are so many good things that kind of go along with being involved in a college athletics program,” Rowley said.
“I’ve always tried to internalize that. I’m appreciative of all the opportunities we have. This is fantastic. I thoroughly enjoy it, and I try to soak it all in.”