Gophers’ Lewis

Michael Dougherty

This just in: Quincy Lewis is really good.
After scoring 24 points in Wednesday’s crucial 69-63 win at Penn State, the senior forward’s average — 24.5 points per game — could make him a lock for a spot on the All-America team.
He is averaging 26 points per game in conference play for the Gophers (15-8, 6-7 in the Big Ten), who get this weekend off before playing their final three Big Ten games next week.
Evan Eschmeyer of Northwestern and Louis Bullock of Michigan are tied for second with a 19.8 average. So, unless Lewis falls into a prodigious slump, the senior forward will be the first Gopher to lead the Big Ten in scoring since Randy Breuer in 1983.
Lewis is currently ranked third in the nation in scoring behind Alvin Young of Niagara (24.7) and Ray Minlend of St. Francis (24.6). If he does win the national scoring title, he would be the first Gopher to do so.
But after his team finally won a Big Ten road game, Lewis said he’s not looking to achieve personal milestones. Instead, he’s doing all he can to lead his team into the NCAA tournament.
“Winning (at Penn State) was more like survival,” Lewis said. “If we really want to be in the NCAA tournament, we knew we were going to have to start winning some games on the road and get ourselves off the bubble.
“I’ve been on a team that probably should have made it and didn’t, so I’m running scared, hoping that we can get a few more wins so we won’t be in a situation where we were a couple of years ago.”
Lewis was part of the 1995-96 team that was 18-12 and 10-8 in conference, yet failed to get invited to the NCAA Tournament. He said he is glad to have the weekend off, adding that it will help the team regroup and get its legs back before heading to Purdue on Tuesday.
His solid play and continuing development has created talk of Lewis being a possible lottery pick (top 13) in this June’s NBA draft. Clich[0233]-spewing college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has proclaimed him a lottery pick, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo compared him to former Spartan and current Atlanta Hawks all-star Steve Smith.
Timberwolves Director of Player Personnel Rob Babcock said Lewis is a lock to be a first-round pick, but hesitated when asked about Lewis’ lottery potential.
“I don’t like to make predictions about the draft, because it’s way too early,” Babcock said. “He’s definitely a first-round pick, but where he goes in the first round depends a great deal on how he does in post-season play, and the NBA camps like the Desert Classic in Phoenix or the Chicago pre-draft camp.”
Babcock also said Lewis’ draft position depends on the number of underclassmen that choose to leave school early. He said Lewis has a lot of upsides, but he needs to work on his guard skills so he can play the two-guard in the NBA as well as small forward.
Lewis, meanwhile, dismisses talk of the NBA; instead, he said he worries about the immediate goal of getting to the Big Dance.
“My team’s success and how Minnesota does as a team has a lot to do on how Miles, Kevin and myself will do after this season,” Lewis said. “Folks want winners, so the more that we win and the more we’re on TV will not only help me, but Miles and Kevin too.”
The win at Penn State, coupled with Illinois’ upset of Northwestern, left the Wildcats, Indiana and the Gophers in a three-way tie for sixth place, a half-game behind Purdue. But Lewis said the team is not in a position to start scoreboard-watching.
“If we don’t take care of our business, it doesn’t make a bit of difference what other teams do,” Lewis said.