Lewis finds comfort zone with 6th-man role

by Todd Zolecki

It’s hard to miss Quincy Lewis on the basketball court. The first two things people see are the long socks pulled up to his knees and the smile on his face. The close-to-shaven head comes next.
Away from the game, it seems nothing could ever bother the Gophers men’s basketball player. He’s relaxed, speaks softly and has no problem flashing that smile on cue.
That’s his style.
On the court he seems just as laid-back, but plays with a controlled emotion. He’s smooth. At 6-foot-7 he’s tall enough to play forward, but quick and wiry enough to be a guard. A rare mix, it seems the only time he’s mistaken for somebody else is when public address announcers call him Quincy Jones, the Grammy Award-winning music producer.
Nobody on the team makes that mistake. The swingman is a key part of the Gophers’ success and is most recognizable as the team’s sixth man. He’s likely to be the first player off the bench when No. 2-ranked Minnesota hosts Ohio State tonight at Williams Arena.
Being the sixth man is an attitude. They don’t sulk because they don’t start, but they relish their role of coming off the bench and providing a spark for the team.
Lewis does that. The sophomore averages 8.3 points in 18 minutes per game.
“I’m not big in starting him because I know he’s going to play,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. “I don’t call him a role player coming off the bench. Quincy is a starter. (He gets) starting minutes.”
Lewis said he’d be lying if he said he didn’t want to start. Every player does. But he knows that moment will come, and right now, he has no problem coming into the game to give forward Sam Jacobson a break.
Haskins loves that attitude. Nowadays, he said, too many players come into a program and think they should be starting just like they did in high school.
Lewis understands. At Parkview High School in Little Rock, Ark., he came off the bench his first two years, which controlled his ego.
But coming in for a player who every fan in Williams Arena loves is no easy task. Minor grumblings can often be heard from fans when Jacobson comes out and Lewis comes in.
Tough crowd.
“You just have to understand Sam is a hometown boy,” Lewis said. “We understand that. We know he’s a scorer, and I understand that. I really don’t care what the fans think. I’m just going in there to do my job. If it’s for 10 minutes or 20 minutes I’m just coming in to be productive.”
There’s definitely no jealousy between the two. By next year, it is likely Lewis will be in the starting lineup. But for now, he’ll continue to do what Haskins asks of him.
“Quincy isn’t just going in because Sam is tired, he’s going in because he’s a good basketball player,” Haskins said. “It’s good to have players like Quincy.”
He was Arkansas Player of the Year his senior year. And last year, Mike Anderson, an assistant at Arkansas, said many of the traits he saw of Lewis in high school will make him a good college player.
“For his size, I thought he could play multi-positions,” he said. “He could be a guard, he could be a forward, he could be a swing man — his skills are at that level.
“I think he’s going to get better and he has a good chance to be a tremendous player in that league up there because you don’t see a lot of guys that versatile. And especially once he gets some strength and experience.”
Lewis has bulked-up between his freshman year at Minnesota and this year. Haskins joked that when Lewis used to walk on the beach last year, he would get buried in the sand by bigger guys.
Now, Lewis will be doing the burying.