Calhoun: Lewis made it look easy at Northeastern

Calhoun: Lewis made it look easy at Northeastern
July 23, 2013, 2:45 pm
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BOSTON -- Northeastern head coach Jim Calhoun felt pretty good about his incoming class in 1983, a group that included a gangly kid from Baltimore named Reggie Lewis.

While there were others rated higher than Lewis, Calhoun sold Lewis on the fact that he would no longer have to play in the shadows of other great players like he did at Dunbar High School in Baltimore.
 
At Dunbar, Lewis came off the bench on a team that included future NBA players Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams and David Wingate.
 
Signing with Northeastern would finally give him a shot at being the man. And Lewis didn't disappoint during a four-year career in which he established himself as the best basketball player ever to play at Northeastern.

Lewis concluded his college career as Northeastern's all-time leading scorer (2,709), and at that time, he ranked ninth all-time among NCAA Division I basketball players (he's currently 19th). His success led the Celtics to take him in the first round of the 1987 NBA draft.
 
His No. 35 jersey was retired and hung high atop Northeastern's Matthews Arena.
 
"The more you pushed Reggie, the better he got," said Calhoun who later went on to win three national titles at UConn. "That development was day by day by day, by hour. His time in the gym was amazing to me."
 
Calhoun recalls many days watching Lewis and his roommate Andre LaFleur play 1-on-1, full court.

Those battles between Lewis, 6-foot-8 at the time, and LaFleur, a 6-3 point guard, were among the many things Lewis did while at Northeastern to improve as a player.
 
"The thing we couldn't teach, was his first step," Calhoun said. "He had one of the great first steps and either all the way, or mid-range. But when he mid-ranged you, it was different. We called it the praying mantis jump shot. By that we meant he always looked like he had his legs a little bit forward, going backwards."
 
Calhoun added, "Perfect form at the end. No one on the face of this earth could teach that first step."
 
As much as Calhoun loved the player that Lewis was, he was even more attached to him as a person. Calhoun recalls early in Lewis' freshman year when he got on Lewis because he didn't seem to be working as hard as Calhoun would have liked.
 
"He just made things look incredibly easy," Calhoun recalled.
 
The two had a brief conversation that has stuck with Calhoun after all these years, and still brings a smile to his face when he reflects on it.
 
"As kind of inside his personality," Calhoun said, "he's one of the few kids in my 41 years as a Division I head coach who says, 'Coach, can you not yell at me in front of the other guys?' There was a sweetness about him."
 
But that sweet, unassuming demeanor -- and a lithe frame that never carried more than 193 pounds -- didn't mean Lewis was soft on the court.
 
"As a basketball player, he didn't really know how good he was," said Bogues. "We saw the talent in him. He was just waiting for his opportunity."
 
It came at Northeastern, and he soared to unprecedented heights during his four seasons there.
 
The Huskies went to the NCAA tournament all four years he was on campus, and pulled off a few upsets along the way which included wins over Big East power Villanova and Ohio State.
 
"We were really good," Calhoun said. "Reggie was the guy. Reggie was the best mid-major player, far and away, in the country. He was one of the best players in the country."
 
Calhoun added, "He made us go from a really good program to a program that's quite frankly, in today's day and age, we'd be above the (NCAA Tournament) bubble. We'd be the Gonzaga of today and Reggie would have been the guy. There's no question in my mind."

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