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Low keeps aiming high

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    Derrick Low has been working out tirelessly in preparation for another shot at the NBA. The former 'Iolani star will join the Clippers' Summer League team in July.

"Love & Basketball." The title of the 2000 movie aptly sums up Derrick Low’s life at the moment. The summer of his content includes marriage and a spot on the Los Angeles Clippers’ NBA Summer League roster.

There won’t be much time for the former ‘Iolani and Washington State standout to make an impression — the Clippers play just five games between July 16 and 22 in Las Vegas — but it’s enough for Low, who has been working out intensely since returning home following the end of his pro season in Ukraine.

"The NBA has always been the dream," said the 27-year-old Low. "I had wanted to play in the (NBA) Summer League again — I did it once before right out of college with Dallas — and the day I was packing to come back home, my agent called saying he had good news. That he got me a shot to play for the Clippers.

"That’s all you can ask for. That opportunity."

Since finishing his All-Pac-10 Conference career at Washington State, the 6-foot-2 guard has played professional basketball on courts around the globe: Australia, France, Lithuania — where he was’s Import Player of the Year — Israel and then Ukraine for two years.

This past season, his BC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk team finished 11th in the 14-team Superleague, not making the eight-team playoff, but Low had another outstanding showing. Low, the lone American on the roster, was the only one to play in all 39 games, averaging 35 minutes as the only non-Ukrainian starter. He finished second in the league in assists (6.9), was second on his team in scoring (15.3 ppg) and, in the season finale, turned in a 16-point, 11-assist, four-steal performance in an 89-77 loss to Hoverla.

On Thursday, Low was named All-Ukrainian Superleague honorable mention. It was a nod, in part, to his leap in assist average, where, transitioning to being a true point guard, he upped his number to 6.9 apg from his 2.8 apg last season.

"I have been playing more point, getting a lot of reps at handling the ball, creating offense," Low said. "That’s my future at the higher levels. I’m too small to play the 2 guard. Just look at the NBA guys at 6-4, 6-5. I’m learning and adapting.

"In college, I had to shoot more. They relied on me to score. Now, I’m more about finding the open people. I have gotten better.

"I don’t make the fancy passes. I’m not spectacular, but I know I’m starting to see things that I never saw before. Where I only saw one option before, I am now seeing two or three. I’ve expanded my vision and I’m learning how to make the best read."

Low also is committed to being in the best shape possible. He has been with Tactical Strength & Conditioning since his freshman year at ‘Iolani, and has been working out four times a week for 90 minutes or more.

The concentration has been on lifting weights, but with summer league a month away, he has switched the regimen to work on speed, agility, jumping and explosiveness. A few years ago, he saw several MMA fighters using an elevation mask that mimics high-altitude training, helping with metabolic conditioning and recovery.

"I’ll try anything to help me improve," Low said. "I’ve seen a difference. Where I used to get super tired, I feel I’m able to recover a lot faster. We used to take one-minute breaks on the circuit training and I’d say I need more time. Now I’m ready to go even before the minute is up."

Barry Toyama, co-owner of Tactical Strength & Conditioning, has worked with Low since 2000. Adding the elevation mask is part of interval training specific to basketball that trains inspiratory and expiratory (breathing) muscles.

"Derrick has always been very talented and highly skilled," said Toyama, also a staff lecturer in kinesiology & rehabilitation science at the University of Hawaii. "His determination and concentration on fundamentals have been instrumental to his level of play. He has many qualities professional athletes possess. He is dedicated, smart, studies the game and is calculating.

"His largest improvement has been his performance, mainly his strength, power and stability. He has improved his physical capacity and has more tools in his basketball tool belt. With his additional improvement in explosive power and upper and lower body strength, Derrick will be able to showcase his skill at the next level."

Currently, Low is making a comfortable living in Ukraine, with a salary in the low six figures, and housing and expenses paid for. He has several offers pending in Europe — Dnipro posted on its website last week that the club wants Low to return — and "if that NBA door doesn’t open after next month, I know I have options," he said. "My goal has been to be able to provide for my family and have a house on the beach in Hawaii.

"I don’t think this is my last shot at the NBA, but I have to treat it like it is. You never know when you’re going to get the opportunity again and I’m doing everything I can to make that NBA dream come true."

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