Wednesday, July 17, 2013Pro Basketball: Former UF players making their marks
Morgan Lewis was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 National Basketball League of Canada draft, and yet, the former University of Findlay standout didn't crumble under the weight of the pressure.
He welcomed the challenge of living up to the hype much the way he did with the Oilers when they went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team en route to the 2009 NCAA Division II national championship.
In his rookie season, Lewis was a league all-star. This past season, after being involved in a trade over the summer, he helped lead the London Lightning to a second consecutive NBL Canada championship.
Lewis, who was traded from the Oshawa Thunder, averaged 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while tallying 93 assists and 35 steals despite battling an injury early in the season.
"I wouldn't say there was any added pressure of being a No. 1 pick. Honestly, it made me want to work harder to prove why I was the first overall pick," Lewis said. "The Lightning thought I could be a key piece in their repeat bid. It turned out to be a great decision."
For Lewis, who credits his experience at Findlay for helping him become the player he is today, adding another championship to his resume is a thrill.
"I am honored, and I think I speak for the whole team when I say that we are blessed and so appreciative that God let us come together and accomplish something so memorable."
Lewis is one of three Oilers from that unbeaten national title team making a living playing basketball. Lee Roberts and 2009 D-II National Player of the Year Josh Bostic are also playing at the pro level.
Like Lewis, Roberts won a title this year as helped lead Estudiantes Concordia, a team out of Argentina, to a championship.
Roberts scored 20 or more points 13 times, including three times in a five-game championship series that went the distance. He had a double-double in all five games of the finals and averaged 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per outing on the season.
"It was a crazy feeling to be in a position to win a championship for the second time in my career," Roberts said. "We won by one point on the road in the final game, and the feeling of winning was overwhelming. To accomplish a goal that every team sets out to achieve is a statement in itself."
However, the celebration on the floor was short-lived for Roberts and his teammates.
"Being in Argentina where the fans take their sports very seriously, the situation kind of turned dangerous," Roberts said. "We had to rush out of the stadium because the fans were after us."
Bostic, who won a championship a year ago, nearly won another title this season with Belfius Mons-Hainaut in Belgium. His team reached the finals but fell short of the crown. Still, Bostic came through with another strong year, pouring in 13.9 ppg and grabbing 4.1 rebounds per game. He also racked up 61 steals and handed out 65 assists.
"I felt like this year was a huge leap forward as far as personal progression goes," Bostic said. "I really learned to appreciate the importance of putting in extra mental work, such as doubling the amount of film I watched on my opponent. It was a tremendous help."
Bostic recently signed with Elan Chalon, one of the top teams in France that competes in the best European League.
"I am excited about taking this giant step forward and competing against the top players in Europe," Bostic said. "I have been very blessed in my career and I will continue to work toward my dream of playing in the NBA."
Lewis spent last summer working with the Toronto Raptors and planned to spend this offseason working out in Toronto as well. Like Bostic, he dreams of one day playing in the NBA and is willing to work at it to make it happen.
His drive to succeed is fueled, in part, by his late father. His dad battled cancer and was told he only had two months to live in January of 2007. He ended up living until November, and although the cancer had spread from his lungs into his liver and bones, he was able be in Columbus to see Lewis help the Oilers knock off Ohio State in an exhibition game.
"If my father could fight through the pain, sleepless nights, chemotherapy and all of that other stuff, I can go out on the basketball court and give it my all," Lewis said.
"My athletic talents get better each day and I will continue to work at being the best player I can be."
Subscribe to The Courier.