ShareThis Page

Freshman Lewis II provides hope for Duquesne basketball

| Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 8:18 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Duquesne University's Mike Lewis II puts in a layup when Duquesne hosted Fordham at the A.J. Palumbo Center, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Don't think the moment will be too big for Duquesne freshman Mike Lewis II when he steps onto the court Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena for his first Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Lewis has been 19 years old for less than a month, but if the Dukes' first-round game against Saint Louis (11-20) hangs in the balance, coach Jim Ferry won't hesitate to order where the ball needs to go: Someone throw it to Lewis.

Only a strange set of circumstances this week will prevent Lewis from becoming the fourth freshman in school history to lead the Dukes in scoring. He has recorded 430 points (13.9 per game), a total of 43 ahead of runner-up Emile Blackman, a senior.

“We go to him late in games,” Ferry said. “He shoots 3s. He handles the basketball.”

He also carries Duquesne fans' hopes for a basketball makeover.

Unless No. 14 seed Duquesne (10-21) can win five consecutive games through Sunday, the NCAA Tournament will start next week for the 40th consecutive time without the Dukes among the participants.

Lewis and Isiaha Mike — both named Tuesday to the A-10 all-rookie team — could provide enough spark over the next three years to stop that streak. At least, that's the hope.

Lewis grew up a winner at all-boys Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis. A year ago, the Missouri state championship in the largest classification was at stake, and Chaminade was clinging to a 58-56 lead against Kickapoo.

Although there were three other Chaminade players bound for Division I programs, including third-team All-ACC choice Jayson Tatum of Duke, it was Lewis who stepped up and hit consecutive 3-pointers to ensure the victory.

“Two of the biggest shots of the year,” Chaminade coach Frank Bennett said. “It took some guts to shoot them.”

With Lewis, Tatum, Iowa's Tyler Cook and Princeton's Will Grayson leading the way, Chaminade finished the season ranked seventh in the nation, according to USA Today.

Lewis never got lost among those star players, but he said matriculating to Duquesne — where he is forced to carry the load most nights — has changed his basketball personality.

“It takes some getting used to,” he said. “I was so used to deferring to guys and passing (in high school). Now, I'm the guy they pass to.

“I tend to be more aggressive and sometimes be more selfish than I would like to be.”

Bennett said Lewis happily accepted a lesser role for the sake of winning.

“He ran the point for us and did a good job of knowing when to score and when to facilitate,” he said. “He did it because he wanted to win, never pouted, never sulked.”

Lewis chose Duquesne over Omaha, IUPUI and Illinois State. Asked if Lewis was under-recruited, Bennett said, “Definitely.”Ferry was honest with him, according to Lewis.

“He said, ‘We are going to need you to come in from Day 1 and set the tone,' ” Lewis said. “It was very shocking to me. On my high school team, I wasn't that guy or even the second option some days. I was like, ‘Wow. At a college level, you want me to be the main focus early?' ”

Lewis accepted the challenge, and the season quickly became a learning experience for the young Dukes, who also start sophomores Nakye Sanders and Tarin Smith.

“It's weird sometimes,” Lewis said. “I have to lead my teammates at the same time I'm learning things.”

Lewis leads the Dukes in 3-pointers (60) and free-throw percentage (83.2). On the negative side, he's fourth in turnovers (59) on a team that has committed 442 of them, next-to-last in the A-10.

“If we can just take care of the ball a little better,” Ferry said, “we give ourselves a chance of winning the game.”

Note: A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade announced ticket sales at PPG Paints Arena surpassed $1 million for the first time in the 41-year history of the tournament.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.