When Jeff Lowery was little, his two older brothers would play football with him.

Well, not actually with him.

"We would always go to the park and play football," Lowery said, "but it was always me against my two bigger brothers. It was pretty unfair."

Now that he's on the basketball court as a junior at Desert Vista, no wonder he doesn't mind guarding the other team's best player. That's a breeze compared to the old days.

"It definitely toughened me up," he said.

Lowery does a little bit of everything for the Thunder. The 6-foot-2 guard is the team's second-leading scorer and often runs the offense.

The team plays a pressure defensive style, and he enjoys being at the center of it.

"I like shutting down people," Lowery said. "When I was a sophomore last year, I had to guard Daniel (Bejarano), Shawn King, all the best players. I like to stop people."

Bejarano, now at the University of Arizona, had only 15 points in the meeting on 7-of-16 shooting.

First-year Desert Vista coach Dave Williams said Lowery is the biggest key to the team's success.

"His mental toughness can take us a long way," Williams said. "If he's making the right passes, not getting into foul trouble, we can beat anybody in the state."

Since Williams is in his first year, and with the addition of high-profile transfer Danny Powell in the summer, it was unknown how everything would work out for Lowery this season.

His older brother, Josh, led the Thunder to a state title in 2008 before moving on to play for Pepperdine, and Jeff was showing similar flashes of talent as a sophomore.

He averaged 11.4 points and 2.6 steals per game last year, but the team finished only 11-15 and Doug Harris was fired at the end of the year.

Lowery said the adjustment from Harris to Williams wasn't tough.

"I've had a lot of different coaches, so it really wasn't anything new," Lowery said.

Then Powell came in. He is the team's leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, and presumably has taken some shots away from Lowery, but it hasn't been an issue. Lowery is averaging almost a point per game less this year than last at 10.8, but said the addition of Powell has been a huge plus for the team.

"It was good having him come on," Lowery said. "He's big so he can play down low, but he can also go out on the wing. He's been a big help."

Jeff and Josh Lowery are very close. They talk almost every night, and last summer Jeff went up to Pepperdine to play at open gyms with his older brother.

At Desert Vista, Jeff is well aware of the legacy his brother left.

This year, Desert Vista is 20-9 overall and is the ninth seed in the Class 5A Division I, which gets under way at 7 tonight. The Thunder travel to Tucson to face No. 8 Salpointe Catholic (22-6). The winner advances to Saturday's quarterfinals, mostly likely facing No. 1 Sierra Vista Buena.

With most of the team's core returning next season, the Thunder have two legitimate shots at winning a state title.

Lowery said he doesn't feel pressure living up to Josh, but would enjoy taking home a state title of his own.

"That's always been the question since freshman year," Lowery said. "Am I going to follow in his footsteps? I'm going to try."

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