The first sign that you’ve grown up is admitting that you needed to grow up. And Huron’s outstanding basketball player Avery Lewis has grown up – both on and off the basketball court.
And Lewis admits that growing up off the court has helped him improve on the court. Sometimes, it’s a lesson never learned. But the senior forward says he’s learned his lesson and he’s ready to prove it to his coaches, teammates and most importantly himself.
“Last year was a lot of ups and downs,” said Lewis, who was a starter last season and earned All-SEC Second Team honors. “I started off the season averaging about 20 points per game for the first five games or so and then I let some attitude problems on and off the court get in my way and it really effected my play. It was roller-coaster year.”
This year, his final year with the River Rats, Lewis is hoping a better attitude and stronger commitment will translate into more consistency on the basketball court.
“I am trying to focus more on being steady,” he says. “Last year I felt like I had all the tools and capabilities I have now but I didn’t have the mental part of the game. I went through some growing pains last year trying to deal with all the pressure and sometimes I let it affect me in a negative way.”
Lewis is 6-foot-6, 200 pounds of pure athlete. He combines speed and quickness with shear strength. He can run past you as easily as he can muscle you up – sort of, pick your poison.
But once he gets to the rim opponents might as well head back down court because he’s very difficult to stop once he has position near the rim. The only thing that has really slowed him down this year are some nagging injuries.
Lewis has been hobbled this year and hasn’t really been at full speed since the second game of the season. It’s been a little frustrating not being able to go full speed ahead.
“At the beginning of the year I was having some problems with my toe and now it’s my ankle that’s hurt,” he said. “My goal right now is to get back to 100 percent healthy so I can help the team.”
He hurt his toe in the second game of the season which really limited what he could do on the basketball court. After finally putting the toe behind him, Lewis rolled his ankle pretty bad during a game and has tried to play through that injury.
“It’s been frustrating,” he admits. “This is my last year and I feel like I’ve been hurt this year more than at any other time.”
Lewis played early on in Friday’s game during the team’s trip to Chicago over the weekend but he came out early after the River Rats took a big lead.
“We had a big enough lead so I didn’t need to go back in,” he said. “I will probably sit out our next two games as well to allow the ankle to fully heal.”
Huron has games this week with Chelsea (non-division crossover game) and then against struggling Bedford. It’s a good week to let Lewis rest the ankle and come back at 100 percent.
“The following week we have Skyline so I want to be ready for that game,” he said.
Lewis says the games with Skyline and Pioneer are certainly circled once the schedule is announced. And this year all three teams are strong with Skyline taking the lead of the pack with an undefeated record and state-ranking to its credit.
“We definitely get up for those games,” he said. “We know a lot of people who turn out for those games and the gym is always packed and loud. We play with a little more energy and a little more pep in your step in those games. In those games it’s more about calming down than having to get up.”
Lewis hopes to get up to the next level after high school and take his game to the collegiate level. He believes – and rightfully so – that he can play Division 1 and isn’t done trying to prove the point. He does have two full-ride scholarship offers on the table from D-2 teams if he decides go in that direction.
“I want to play college at the highest level possible,” he says. “Right now I’m figuring out where I can go from here. And if I don’t get a Division 1 offer that’s fine too. I am just blessed to be able to play at the next level.”
But first things first – and that’s helping the River Rats get to the next level.
“We have a really close-knit group and we play hard for each other,” he said. “We don’t have to say that we are like brothers because we show it the way we play together. We really are about each other.
“There are some talented teams in our league but I think our scrappiness and cohesiveness and chemistry is enough to beat teams that may have a little more talent than we do. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Now that sounds like someone who is not only a good basketball player but a grown up basketball player.