HAZEL GREEN | Wednesday was a difficult day at Hazel Green High School but a proud day as well. The Madison County school, placed squarely between Huntsville and the Alabama/Tennessee line saw the best basketball prospect in school history say farewell a year early, but did so while realizing that he is ready for college competition.

 Kira Lewis, who would have been a Top 40 basketball prospect in the nation and one of the top two basketball players in the state, officially signed his financial aid papers with the University of Alabama on Wednesday. In doing so, he opted to forego a final season of eligibility. Still, the school magnanimously hosted a well-attended farewell in the cafeteria, featuring speeches by Lewis and several of his former coaches.

“Coach (Avery)  Johnson treats you like family,” Lewis said. “He is straight with you. (The staff) told me if I come in and work, I can play right away and help me get closer to my NBA dreams,” Lewis said. “If I go in, work and do what I can, hopefully God will bless me and I’ll fulfill that dream.”

 Lewis was the AHSAA Class 6A Player of the Year last season,   averaging 28.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.9 steals as Hazel Green advanced to the state tournament semifinals in Birmingham. He said he was “leaning” to Alabama after an unofficial visit in June, but made his mind up on an official visit earlier this month.

 Johnson and the rest of the Alabama staff could not attend the ceremony or comment until UA received Lewis’ signature, per NCAA rules. Once the signing was complete, Johnson spoke in a telephone interview with the Tuscaloosa News.

 “Kira had been talking about the possibility of reclassifying since we started recruiting him because he is very advanced academically,” Johnson said. “He has some work to do to meet the qualifications but he had no problems and his mother and father felt like this was the best decision.”

At 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds, Lewis projects as a point guard and while his slender frame is obvious, Johnson said it was not a hindrance in elite level AAU competition this summer.

 “We’ll get him stronger,” Johnson said. “We don’t want him to be Hercules. We want him to keep that fifth, sixth and seventh gear that he has in the open floor. He’s as fast, baseline to baseline, as Collin (Sexton, Alabama’s lottery pick point guard last season) so we aren’t worried about making him weigh 240 pounds.”

 Lewis will be one of five potential newcomers on the UA team in the upcoming season but the roster will not be finalized until the fall semester begins next week.


 Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.