Lewis finds his niche as U basketball’s main man

Murali Balaji

The days of “instant offense” are over for Gophers’ forward Quincy Lewis.
Now, he is The Man.
Since his arrival to the University three years ago, the 6-foot-7 Lewis has been a complementary player to the likes of Bobby Jackson, Sam Jacobson and John Thomas, all of whom have gone on to the NBA. Now it’s his turn to bask in the glow of being the go-to guy on the team, as well as accepting the inevitable scrutiny that will accompany his newfound status.
Lewis’ climb to prominence began as a senior in high school, when the former Arkansas player of the year committed to play for the Gophers and coach Clem Haskins.
“It feels like it was just yesterday,” Lewis said. “Even when I made my college visit, I kind of got the feeling that this was the place for me.”
Even though he is now a senior and headed for a possible career in the NBA, Lewis is still asked the question: “Why didn’t you choose Arkansas three years ago?”
“I grew up a huge Arkansas fan,” he said. “The Razorbacks were my team, and that’s really where my mom wanted me to play. But I was just really impressed with this program and Clem Haskins.”
While Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson might have kicked himself for not snaring Lewis, Haskins and the Gophers are enjoying the services of one of the most complete players in the Big Ten, if not the country. With Jacobson gone as the number one scorer, Lewis will likely see the ball more than any other player on the team.
“Quincy has played outstanding basketball for us, and he and Kevin (Clark) will determine how far we go this year,” Haskins said. “This young man is a leader on our team, and I think he’ll give us a lot of options this year on offense.”
Last season, results were mixed when Lewis played mostly at the power forward position and in the low-post, where his 215-pound frame had to match up against 245-pound big men on a consistent basis. Lewis expects to be more effective this season, thanks to the move back to his natural small forward position.
“It’s obvious I gave up a lot of strength in the post,” he said. “If I can play 30 minutes at the small forward spot, I can do a lot of things well.”
Lewis should be able to create mismatches playing on the wing. Despite his lack of bulk, he is a deceptively strong player who can back down smaller defenders and get easy buckets in the baseline.
“Quincy is the guy who can make those things happen,” Clark said. “He knows how to score from all over the court, so you know he’ll get his points every game.”
Gophers’ opponents are also bracing for the impact that Lewis will make once Big Ten competition begins.
“Quincy is a great player, there is no doubt about it,” Purdue guard Tony Mayfield said. “He just brings the whole package to their team.”
While his offensive skills garner all the attention, it has been Lewis’ improved defensive ability that has made him such an integral part of the Gophers. He enters the season ranked tenth in school history in steals (129), and seventh all-time in blocked shots (77).
But those statistics and records pale in comparison to Lewis’ most important accomplishment: He will walk away with a college degree, a feat that can’t be overlooked in an age of dropping graduation rates for many collegiate sports programs.
“It would be a crime for me, after all these years, to leave without a degree,” he said. “I don’t want people saying, `This is just another athlete from the U who didn’t graduate.’
“After all that Coach Haskins has done for me, it’s the least I can do.”