Kiara Lewis filling into a role at Syracuse she’s always played

first_img Comments Published on February 21, 2019 at 12:43 am Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcCleary Kiara Lewis couldn’t believe it was happening again. After a four-point outing against Georgia Tech on Jan. 20, in which her 0-of-4 shooting performance contributed to a 23.9 percent day for Syracuse, she hopped on a conference call with five of her relatives who tried to convince her to stay patient.She was a former “all-everything” player in high school, Lewis’ uncle, Bryant, said, but went to Ohio State and averaged just nine minutes a game. Her off-ball role led to little opportunity within the offense, little opportunity to do what she does best. And now it was happening again at Syracuse. Ever since the seventh grade, she was a coveted college basketball prospect. She controlled the game. She scored from all points of the floor and pushed the pace to expedite her offensive advances.Before she chose Ohio State, Bryant remembered Lewis told her father, Gary, that she didn’t want that anymore. Toward the end of her high school career, she started to give the ball to her teammates and let them take the ball up the court. In 2013, her espnW HoopGurlz scouting report labeled her a “lead-guard,” but by her junior season she was declared a “combo-guard.” Perhaps this was the route she was best suited to take. Perhaps she would benefit from a year as an understudy, she said.Two years later, many around Lewis scoffed. After a limited role in one year at Ohio State, Lewis joined Syracuse and was forced to sit out for a season due to NCAA transfer rules. Now with the No. 18 Orange (19-6, 8-4 Atlantic Coast), she provides a steady scoring hand as both a second point guard and off-ball specialist for SU.But her adjustment to her role has taken time, something that not many, especially Lewis, expected. To do so, she had to get back to playing the way she always has.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Being able to play multiple positions, that’s something that can bring a different style or talent to the game,” Lewis said.After Syracuse’s win over North Dakota in Lewis’ first career game at SU, the similarities between her and current-SU starting point guard Tiana Mangakahia were clear. Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman was the first to make the comparison. While Lewis provided a scoring punch Mangakahia didn’t in that game, he lauded the low turnover totals from each guard. He called the two players “one unit” and said for the first time they could see a lot of time on the court together.The immediacy of increased touches at SU were enough to keep Lewis invested during the early part of the season, but Gary said the comparison proved to be difficult later. Even for short stretches, Lewis’ playing time and scoring stalled. Coaches at Syracuse would point out to her when she was taking a bad shot or forcing a play. She never understood why, Gary said. At Ohio State, in a similar role beside star point guard Kelsey Mitchell, Lewis associated playing off the ball with not being involved, Gary said. At Syracuse, she misinterpreted many of SU’s early expectations as the same.So, following her worst game of the season, she called for help. On the call were, Gary, her mother, Kadijat, Bryant and Darren Johnson, a friend of Gary’s and a pastor.Johnson read aloud Proverbs 3: 4-5:“Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man / Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”With that, Lewis reached an epiphany, she said. To sulk over something she cannot control does her no good. Gary said the obsession with her role took her mind off from what she does best: score. There’s no use comparing her to Mangakahia because she’s not Mangakahia. They play different games, and Lewis just needed to get back to hers.“Either you know how to play,” Johnson said, “or you freaking don’t.”Lewis looked for places where she can freely score. Gary noticed that Mangakahia goes to the ball immediately after a rebound. Lewis just needed to run up the sideline, she and Mangakahia said. Lewis scored 16 points the next game and was one of the only Orange players who could find her shot.Gary told her to she needed to take 2,000 shots. And she did. Her and Gary, who watch film three or four times a week, diagnosed problems that created openings in defenses. She started to notice when the shots she took were forced, and she looked to correct it.As her shots started to fall, SU ran V-cut plays to free her on the elbow and curls to free her in the corners. As the games progressed, her decision-making off the ball improved and she, once again, became a consistent scoring threat as a quasi-shooting guard in SU’s two-point guard lineup.In the week leading up to a matchup with Duke, Gary noticed that the Blue Devils have a tendency to bite on the pick and roll. With Mangakahia handling the ball up top, the bottom of the defense would be free.“They always leave that corner open,” Gary said to Lewis.After a tough shooting half for SU, Lewis was open in the corner, but a Duke player who switched late tumbled into her. Lewis drained it anyway. She converted on a free throw, and the next play down the floor, hit another 3 from the same spot. Her old friend from AAU, Faith Suggs, was late in a rotation out towards Lewis. Gary laughed. Suggs’ father, Shafer Suggs, sent a text to Gary.“Faith knows better to leaving (Lewis) open,” Shafer said.Gary responded with three laughing emojis.“I know you need that identity,” Shafer responded. “We coming back to spank ass.“She played great !! (sic) Tell her congrats.”Since the Duke win, Lewis has felt at ease. She’s happy at SU, Gary said, and now she understands the full potential of what she can do. It’s just what she’s always done.“Everyone wants to have the ball,” Lewis said, “and (playing off the ball is) what’s going to separate you from the next person.”center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more