I’ll be honest…when I first saw Tyler Lewis play it was at Dave Telep’s Carolina Challenge and I thought he was a coaches kid, or a charity case. Why else would this tiny white kid be out there with all of these elite athletes? Then someone mentioned to me that it was Tyler Lewis. I had heard of him, and read about him, but that couldn’t be him. He’s too small, too frail to be any kind of decent basketball player.
Wow, was I wrong. Lewis dissected the defense, made passes I’ve never seen and hit some big shots in the face of some big time recruits. He turned me into a believer that day, but only a couple years later I was back doubting him again. Sure, he could dominate the christian school ranks of NC, but Oak Hill? He’s transferring to the #1 HS team in America? He’s going to get no run there and if he does, he’s going to struggle.
Wow, was I wrong. Lewis turned Oak Hill into an unbeatable force. He not only played for them, he led them to an undefeated season. He was not only distributing like a veteran guard, he was scoring at a crazy rate. He went from unranked nationally to a top 50 recruit. But for some reason I was still skeptical. Sure, he can dominate at Oak Hill, but what’s going to happen when he’s facing elite guards in the ACC? He’s not built big enough to handle the physicality of the ACC game, he won’t be a force until he puts on a lot more muscle and grows a few inches.
Wow, was I wrong, again. While Lewis did struggle early in the ACC schedule with NC State, he proved just about everybody wrong when he stepped in for Lorenzo Brown and took control of the game on Saturday, nearly guiding the Wolfpack to a win over #14 Miami. Lewis didn’t just run the offense well or set a nice pace for his team, he created , got to the lane and caused havoc. Lewis finished with 16 points while adding 5 assists and only committing one turnover.
This kid is not an ordinary talent. He’s a ‘once in a long time’ type talent. Sure, this was only one game and I don’t think anyone should be going around crowning anyone after one game, but we got to really see what Tyler Lewis is capable of at the highest level. He was facing a great team with a great guard and Lewis was, for the lack of a better term, dominant. No one could check him or keep him out of the lane. Miami tried multiple defenders, they tried to get physical with him, attempted to intimidate him, but nothing worked..he just kept coming. Lewis isn’t going to be more athletic than anyone he’ll go up against at any point in his next 3 1/2 years at NC State, but that doesn’t matter, because he’s not your average player. Lewis has all the intangibles that great point guards have and he finally got to show them off on Saturday.
Watch the tape again. I did, and what I saw was a point guard that was just smarter than anyone else on the floor. He changes speed, changes direction, uses and invites contact…all the while dictating where his defender will go. That’s the sign of a great point guard. He sets the defense up right where he wants them, and then attacks on his terms. He has great vision and even started scoring. His blend of confidence and toughness was on display against Miami, and it was hard to believe he was just a freshman who had yet to see any real minutes in ACC play.
So what does this mean?
Look, I’m not here telling you that Lewis is All-ACC yet…he’s not. Or wait, maybe I shouldn’t say that, because everytime I doubt him, I end up wrong. My point is, I don’t want to hype the kid too much after just one game, however, I’m not blind and what I saw on Saturday afternoon was special. It’s going to mean a lot of things for NC State.
1) Lorenzo Brown gets a breather. Zo needs to get some rest. The guy is running the break, defending the opponents quickest player and all the while he is expected to play almost 40 minutes per game. That’s not possible. It’s almost certain that we’re seeing a watered down version of Brown late in games and that’s a problem. You don’t want your best player sucking wind when you need him most, and that’s one reason Lewis’ emergence was so vital. Now, State can give Zo a breather without a big drop-off in play.
2) You can change up the looks. Brown does a lot of things that Lewis will never be able to do, just based off of size and athleticism alone. But Lewis can give opponents a whole different look, a different pace. Tyler’s vision is probably a tick better than Brown’s even at this point and he plays the game at a little different speed. Zo is obviously the guy you want out there when the game is on the line, but Lewis can definitely bring his strengths to the table if Brown gets tired or starts forcing things a little too much.
3) Another ball handler. Lewis gives Gottfried another guy that can come in and handle the ball late in games. You saw at Miami how crucial it is to have guys that are comfortable with the rock when teams are pressing. Adding Lewis to the mix will only help. Not to mention, Tyler is nearing 80% from the line this season, so you likely are going to start seeing him a little more at the end of tight games.
4) Creativity with lineups. Finally, Gottfried has a little depth to work with. All season long he’s been working with basically 6 players. Now he can get creative. He can move Brown to the 2 at times and bring Lewis in to run point. He can go small and have Lewis, Brown and Purvis all in at the same time. It just gives him the ability to throw a lot of different looks at opponents and that always is a good thing.
But wait, really? All of this over one good game from Lewis? Shouldn’t I wait to make all these claims after he’s done this for a few times over? Well, honestly, I’m just going to go ahead and get a little ahead of myself because I’m sick and tired of being proven wrong by Tyler Lewis. He’s good. He’s shown it at every level, and frankly, I’m done doubting him.