Lowry is the Wildcats' floor leader

MINNEAPOLIS -- Phil Martelli says The Story is accurate. Kyle Lowry disagrees.

"It's a true story," Martelli said via phone Thursday.

"That's a lie," Lowry said in person here.

The Story is the one you always hear when discussion turns to Lowry. You hear about how relentlessly he plays, how tough he is, how hard he grew up ... and then you hear The Story. As Martelli recalls, it went down like this:

The occasion was an in-school recruiting visit by the Saint Joseph's coach to Lowry's school, Cardinal Dougherty High. Saint Joe's was near the end of a long line of suitors to chat up Lowry during the recruiting period, and apparently Martelli's pitch went on too long for the then junior in high school point guard's taste.

Lowry cut Martelli off, saying, "Yo, dawg, we 'bout done here?"

"I straightened up and said to myself, 'Did I just hear what I think I heard?'" Martelli recalled. "I told him, 'We'd love to recruit you, but I'm not your dawg.' "

Needless to say, Lowry is not a Hawk. He's a Wildcat. But Lowry is here to tell you the story is apocryphal. Urban myth. Unfair and untrue.

The stories about technical fouls and a surly demeanor at Cardinal Dougherty? He won't deny those. Were some recruiters turned off by his 'tude? Yes. But the kid said he was not the dawg-calling, head-spinning Linda Blair Hell Child some made him out to be.

"I believe I had an unfair reputation," Lowry said. "If people think I was a bad kid, I was a bad kid to them. But people close to me know I'm not.

"I had to grow up, but I think I've grown up a lot. I think I'm handling myself well."

Nevertheless, there were plenty of Philly basketball people who told Nova coach Jay Wright he'd regret taking Lowry. They didn't see a kid with this much street in him coexisting well with the Main Line preppies on the leafy suburban Villanova campus or with the cohesive core group of players Wright already had on board.

He took Lowry, anyway, but with misgivings. But Wright's team leaders stepped in and told the mercurial young point guard how it was going to be.

"We needed him to get on board," senior guard Allan Ray said.

"He was like all freshmen: young, a little bit immature," fellow senior Randy Foye said. "We had to talk to him, stay on him and be sure he could follow the team rules."

Lowry has learned to follow the rules. Learned them well enough that he's now the guy who sets the rules of engagement on the floor for this fast and furious band of Lilliputians. Lowry is the toughest baller on the most fearless team still dribbling in college basketball.

"He's a bulldog," assistant coach Ed Pinckney said. "Determined. Aggressive."

The smallest starter on the smallest team to seriously compete for a national title in decades doesn't know how to take a step backward. He might lead all of college basketball in floor burns. Nobody gets to more loose balls or goes harder to the hoop -- even if he knows he'll end up on the deck.

"As long as I don't get hurt, I'm gonna hit the ground as hard as I can to get the ball," Lowry said.

Even if he does get hurt, it hasn't stopped him. So far this year, Lowry twice has taken stitches after practice wrecks -- stitches above one eyebrow from banging his head on the floor and stitches in his forehead from running into a teammate's elbow.

"I'm not going to cry about it," he said with a shrug. "I'll take my stitches and keep playing."

That has been Lowry's basic approach to a life filled with emotional cuts and bruises. Take your stitches and keep playing.

Kyle said he never has had a relationship with his father, Lonnie Lowry Sr., and doesn't remember the last time he talked to him. The main influences in his life have been his mom, Marie Holloway, and his older brother, Lonnie Jr. Former Saint Joseph's great and Philly area legend Jameer Nelson stepped in along the way as a mentor and workout partner, counseling Lowry on how to improve his game -- and how to navigate his way out of North Philly.

"I grew up in a horrible neighborhood," Lowry said. "Drugs, violence, crime, everything like that around me."

Another shrug.

"But a lot of people have been brought up in tough neighborhoods. My mother and brother made me strive to get good grades and get through school. [When I signed my letter-of-intent with Villanova,] it was the proudest day in my life. Nobody in my life had ever made it to college with a scholarship."

Lowry's next on-court adjustment was going from prep star to college distributor. He has made the transition smoothly, averaging 11.4 points, team highs of 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals, and a remarkable 4.4 rebounds per game. Along the way, his pure point guard skills have made him an attractive candidate for early entry into the NBA draft.

"I'm not worried about that," Lowry said. "I'm thinking about Boston College [Villanova's opponent Friday night]. I'm not thinking about the future a bit."

Wright said he had one discussion this year with Lowry about the pros, and that's it.

"I said to him 'Look, play the way you are playing, the way you're playing has gotten you this attention, and just keep playing that way,'" Wright recalled. "'Don't change anything.'"

When the season is over -- this week, or in early April at the Final Four -- it will be time to evaluate whether Lowry is 'bout done at Villanova, dawg.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.