For University of Alabama point guard Kira Lewis, who will be a focal point for the 2019-20 men’s basketball team, a gold medal-winning trip with Team USA to Greece was about team accomplishment, not individual statistics.
“I just did whatever I could to help my teammates out,” Lewis said in a press conference at Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday. “We all had the same goal to win a gold medal, so you can’t really complain about it because you’ve got 11 other guys that’s the best in the country. So, my approach was just to play when I got minutes, and when I didn’t get minutes, just cheer on my teammates.”
Team USA took the FIBA Under-19 Men’s World Cup Championship at the tournament in Greece, defeating Mali 93-79 in Sunday’s championship game. Team USA, coached by Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber, went 7-0 in the tournament. Lewis played in all seven games but usually in a limited role. He averaged 4.0 points, 1.6 assists and 1.1 rebounds per game.
“One of the challenges about being on one of those teams is playing time,” said Alabama assistant coach Bryan Hodgson, who traveled to Greece for the tournament. “It wasn’t what he’s used to (in terms of playing time), or what he is going to get at Alabama, but he did a good job of balancing that, keeping his head and accomplishing the goal, which was to win the gold medal.
“I was not only able to see him in Greece. That team had some great players but the NCAA also let us watch two days of tryouts in Colorado Springs. Watching him work, I knew it would be tough to cut this kid. I don’t think he has a selfish bone in his body. In Greece, he passed up open shot opportunities even with limited minutes of it meant his teammates got a better shot. His one goal was to win the goal medal.
“He played well against really good competition. You’d look at some of the players from Lithuania or Latvia and they were under 19 but they have been playing pro ball since they were 16. Kira did well against them. His per-minute stats were amazing.”
Lewis was so excited about his gold medal that he wore it back to Tuscaloosa and kept it on until gravity had a say in the matter.
“The first day back, I had it on all day. People wanted to take pictures with it and stuff. By the second day, it started getting pretty heavy so I took it off. I put it back on today because Aaron (Jordan, director of basketball media relations) reminded me. I’ll put it away after this, but this is something I will look at with my grandkids one day.”
Hodgson said Lewis was back working with the team in NCAA-approved skills sessions.
“One of the best things I heard from Kira in Greece was when he said he could not wait to get back to Tuscaloosa (and) get to work with his new teammates.
“We compete,” Hodgson added. “Things that we do aren’t easy, but Kira wants to compete and so do his teammates. We are very fortunate that we walked into this situation, and that’s a credit to the previous staff. It’s not always that way.”
While Hodgson was in Greece to watch Lewis, he was also able to observe some of the best international talent. While many U-19 players are “already spoken for,” either with American college programs or European professional leagues, he noted that he made connections with international coaches of the under-16 teams and also spotted prospects in the U-19 field as well although he cannot name prospects due to NCAA rules.
“I saw one or two,” he said. “Maybe one we will see this weekend.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt.