Unlikely path leads to Wake Tech for Lewis

Jun. 27, 2014 @ 11:00 PM

Northern Vance played its final basketball game in February, but the season was just getting started then for Erdaywin Lewis.

Despite never nailing down a starting position for the Vikings, Lewis signed last Monday to play basketball for Wake Technical Community College.

Even Lewis didn’t expect that before the season tipped off.

“Honestly,” Lewis said before pausing, “no. Not at all.”

But Joe Mitchell, Wake Tech’s head coach, couldn’t pass on the late-blooming Viking after watching him try out on the Raleigh campus.

Surely Northern head coach Wilton Baskett saw flashes of the dynamic wing player his 6-foot-2 post player would become.

Right?

“No flash whatsoever,” Baskett said without hesitation, adding, “He could jump.”

Baskett said Lewis is doing more than jumping now; he’s blocking everything that comes his way, catching alley-oops and knocking down 3-pointers.

Lewis had his academics in order, needing only two credits in the second semester to graduate. That left him with plenty of gym time when Northern’s season ended in the 3-A Big Eight Conference Tournament.

“I think I’ve improved at the end of the season more than I have since I’ve been here,” said Lewis. “It’s just been hard work every day.”

Lewis, like many of his rather unseasoned teammates, was in and out of Northern’s starting lineup throughout the season. In his coach’s eyes, his role was to contribute on the defensive end and rebound.

“He transformed himself from March to May, the largest transformation I’ve ever seen before in my life,” said Baskett. “I’ve never seen anybody change over that fast before. He went from a timid five to playing in front of me like a strong two off guard or small forward.”

Baskett said Lewis’ newfound game left him no choice but to help find him a place to play in college. So the veteran head coach put in a call to a reluctant Mitchell, who ultimately agreed to take a look before seeing something he liked in Lewis.

Wake Tech was coming off a regional tournament title against Louisburg College along with winning two games in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II tourney.

“It felt like I fit,” Lewis said of his tryouts. “I fit in with the players and it seemed like the coach really liked me.”

Lewis said he’s determined to finish his two years at Wake Tech and hopes to move on to a playing career at a four-year school.
He has made his coaches believers and of course, his father never wavered.

Erwin Lewis placed a basketball in his son’s hands at an early age, constantly pushing him to work harder and get better.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to watch him grow and look back over the times when he was a little boy running around the yard,” said Erwin. “To see him get to this point, it’s a blessing and a wonderful feeling. I just thank God to have him and to see him progress the way that he has.

“He hit the books and had excellent grades. To see him get to where he is, I am a proud, proud father.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.