Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lewis' thriller caps Day One at Bob Gibbons TOC

CHAPEL HILL - Bob Gibbons knows a good finish when he sees it in his Tournament of Champions club basketball event.

While reporters were interviewing guard Tyler Lewis of Team Loaded late Friday night, Gibbons flashed a thumbs-up sign. Lewis had just made the biggest shot of the night to give his team a one-point win over Raising Champions and advance his own legend at the Smith Center.

Lewis is a 5-foot-11 point guard in the Class of 2012 from Lewisville, N.C., who received his first scholarship offer from Virginia Tech when he was just a high school freshman.

His story is well known by now in recruiting circles. Lewis possesses uncommon court sense, vision and passing ability and scores over much, much bigger players in the lane even though he weighs just 157 pounds.

There has been much debate over whether he's big, strong or quick enough to thrive as a high-level Division I point guard. But the staffs at Virginia Tech, Charlotte, Auburn, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Miami all have offered him scholarships as his stature has grown.

Figuratively, at least, he grew a little taller Friday night. His team was supposed to be holding the ball for a last shot with the score tied when teammate Andrew White inexplicably tried an off-balance 15-footer with 25 seconds remaining.

Raising Champions grabbed the ball and raced to the other end for a layup to take the lead. Lewis took the inbounds pass and rushed up the court himself. He dribbled left and fired a fadeaway 3-pointer through the net with six seconds remaining.

His father, Rick Lewis, jumped to his feet.

"Yes," he shouted.

Yes, indeed.

Lewis finished with 24 points and a game-winning shot to his credit.

"It's the size of the heart [that matters]," Lewis said. "I don't think anybody comes out and plays with more heart than I do."

One of Lewis' teammates has the opposite problem. Adjehi Baru is 6-foot-10 with impressive athletic ability, but still is developing his skills.

Baru helped spark Team Loaded's second-half comeback, displaying a surprisingly soft jumper inside eight feet. He came to the United States from the Ivory Coast a little more than a year ago with one long-term goal in mind.

He wants to play professional basketball some day. He said colleges have contacted them, but he doesn't want to discuss which ones because he wants to focus all his attention on his school work and improving his basketball skills.

With his size and ability, this Richmond, Va., resident will be worth keeping tabs on.

Another player who emerged Friday night was Class of 2012 forward Montrezl Harrell of Tarboro. With the media gathered to watch highly recruited J.P. Tokoto of Wisconsin, Harrell stole the show in a 16-and-under game with 29 points (to Tokoto's 15), including a couple rim-rattling dunks and two 3-pointers.

He said Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech have offered scholarships. If he keeps playing this way, other schools will be offering, too.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Tournament of Champions throughout the weekend.

Ken Tysiac

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