Oak Hill men’s basketball coach Steve Smith is a legend. He has led Oak Hill Academy to 8 National Championships (1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012), with the most recent one coming this past season (6-time runner-up). He has been named the USA Today National Coach of the Year 4 times (1994, 1999, 2004, 2012). His career record at Oak Hill is ridiculous, winning 94% of his games (860-53). Smith has spawned out 28 McDonald’s All-Americans. Twenty-One of his former players have gone on to have NBA careers…Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Rod Strickland, Brandon Jennings, Stephen Jackson and Rajon Rondo to name a few. He has sent well over 100 players to Division-I colleges. His career speaks for himself. This man has known success and he no one can say that this man doesn’t know talent.
Coach Smith had the chance to coach incoming NC State point guard Tyler Lewis this past season. Many have doubted Lewis over his career, wondering if his talent would translate to the next level.
“I’ve coached 9 point guards that have gone on to the NBA. I’ve coached Rod Strickland, Cory Alexander, William Avery, Steve Blake, Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, Nolan Smith, Rajon Rondo. He did as much or more as any of those guys did for their teams,” said Smith. ”He is a Bobby Hurley type, and he was a lotter pick in the NBA. Am I saying that Tyler is a lock to be a lottery pick one day. No. I can’t guarantee that. But I can tell you that Tyler and Rondo are the two best passers I’ve ever coached.”
Smith was able to lead Oak Hill to their 8th National Championship in 2012, but he makes it very clear that this would have been impossible without Tyler Lewis.
“He was kind of the glue on our team this year. We needed him desperately to do what he did. He made us go offensively. He’s a very cerebral player and is literally a coach on the floor. In the past I’ve had to coach the point guards on the floor, but he made my job very easy. Before Tyler joined our team last summer I knew that we had a good team, but we were beatable. I could have had other point guards, but I don’t think we would have been undefeated.”
According to Smith, Lewis reminds him a lot of the legend Pete Maravich. He possesses a flash in his game that is rare, but still manages to be a good steward of the ball.
“He throws passes where you say ‘Woah.’ He’s got a little Pete Maravich in him. He makes fancy plays that I would normally take players out of the game for, but I couldn’t say anything because he doesn’t turn the ball over,” said Smith. ”This season our team set a record for the lowest amount of turnovers, and Lewis deserves the credit. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He had around an 8:1 assist/turnover ratio this season. Any coach is happy with a 3:1 ratio. He didn’t even lead our team in turnovers, and he had the ball in his hand 75% of the time. Point guards almost always lead their teams in turnovers. All of mine do. Not Lewis.”
The legendary Oak Hill coach believes that people doubt Lewis on paper, but when they actually see him play, he continually proves them wrong. One of those players was Coach Gottfried.
Gottfried hadn’t seen him much, or at all. He saw him last summer, but I don’t think he had seen him in a structured situation. He came up here and watched him play against Grace Prep, which was a Top-5 team,” said Smith. ”Lewis had 23 points and 9 assists. Gottfried walked up to me afterward and said “I didn’t know he was that good.”
Lewis is obviously second on the depth chart behind current NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown, but Smith thinks it will be hard for Gottfried to keep him off of the court.
“Tyler knows he has to work defensively. He knows he has to get stronger. With that being said, this kid doesn’t back down from anyone or any challenge. It’s going to be hard for State not to put him on the court. He makes the team better, and that’s what a point guard is supposed to do. Heck, he’s a good point guard if he doesn’t even take a shot in a game.”