The MAAC Championships took place this weekend, and while Holy Redeemer grad Alexis Lewis and her Iona Gaels didn’t successfully defend their conference title, they did leave their mark.
As the No. 5 seed, the Gaels blew out No. 4 Siena in the quarterfinals before falling to top-seeded Quinnipiac 64-59 in the semifinals on Sunday. Lewis was a dominant figure in both games, registering a double-double in each.
For this week’s Away from the Game, we caught up with the sophomore and discussed the jump from her freshman to sophomore year, her relationship with her brother, former Wyoming Valley West and Penn State football standout Geno Lewis, and the inspiration she draws from Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry.
DJ EBERLE: You went from a Co-Sixth Player of the Year as a freshman and now you’re first-team All-MAAC, you lead your team in points and you got your team a first-round bye in the MAAC tournament. How’s this season been different for you than last year?
ALEXIS LEWIS: I mean, coming in last year as a freshman I wanted to come in and make an impact right away for the team and help them be successful. I knew my teammates, they believed in me, they had a lot of faith in me, including my coaches. I worked last year to get where I am now, to be one of those leading players, to be one of the go-to players, the one to either get a stop or get a score.
It’s what I’ve worked for, it’s what I’m going to continue to work for.
Last year, how would you describe your first year with the team?
Exactly. Division I basketball, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of time. But at the end of the day, the relationships you make with your teammates, you make with your coaches — even through the wins and the losses — all the memories you make, it’s worth it in the end.
When you played in the MAAC tournament last year, and then you look at this year, you have to play three games in four days or two games in three days, something crazy like that. It’s something that, really, aside from AAU ball, you’re not used to. Did that take adjusting and what was that first experience like?
Honestly, for us, practicing everyday, whether it’s a hard practice or a soft practice where we don’t go through much, we’re always ready for whatever we have to be ready for. It’s part of the game, you have to be able to adjust and make due with what you have.
You mentioned how you read the piece on Geno (Monday). Obviously he straight out and said it — he wasn’t shy about it — that he’s the best basketball player in your family, that growing up he would beat you. What’s your response to that?
I mean, I’ll give it to him. When I was younger, back when we were both in high school, he got me. He beat me. Now he still continues to think that he has it up on me and I keep trying to tell him that he doesn’t, but he just doesn’t want to believe it.
When I was talking to him about growing up in an athletic family, he was first to say how great of a season you’ve been having. How much has that helped you further yourself from an athletic standpoint, and just in life?
My brother, he’s my rock. He’s my best friend. If I need something, I always go to him for it. He’s been through all of this, he’s just about done with it — going through college, managing everything. If I ever have a problem or just want to talk, I always call him.
We have a great relationship. That’s what we do. We build each other off of our support. Yeah, it’s competitive. Yeah, we joke around. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing but love. I wouldn’t be as successful as I am without him.
When you first got on campus and you had to balance academic work and athletics, was he someone you took notes from?
Yeah, of course. He was the one that talked to me. He told me how to manage my time, how to manage practice and my classes and everything. He told me about his experiences throughout his years so I could understand a little bit better how it works. He was just a really good backbone for me to have.
Being at Iona You’re really close to New York City. What do you like so far, in your first couple years, about being at Iona and that campus and that area, living close to New York City?
It’s a great area. It’s right there next to the city. It’s a nice, calm area. Not a lot goes on. It’s close enough to home that my parents, they come up to games when they can, and even if I wanted to go home, it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour drive. It’s a good place.
What’s it like down there when you look at being in the MAAC? You have rivals. Manhattan’s pretty close, Monmouth’s pretty close, Marist is pretty close. What’s that aspect of knowing that the location you’re in really helps build rivalries with other schools in the conference?
That’s the best part. Having a bunch of rivalries in a conference, knowing that every time you step on the court, you’re going to get a good game, that everybody’s going to give there best.
Being so close to New York City, when you’re in the off-season — I know being the basketball player you’re pretty busy in the winter time — have you been able to enjoy being so close to New York City?
Of course. Me and my teammates, we sometimes take the train right into the city. There’s a couple shopping malls around that we go to. Just to take a break from basketball, hang out, have a good time.
Yeah, taking a break from basketball, what’s some the stuff that you do when you don’t have to worry about practice and what not.
Usually me and my teammates, we’ll have like a team dinner, sometimes go to the movies, or go to the mall. Just anything to get away, have a little fun.
What’s something that people don’t know about you? Like a hidden talent?
Honestly, a lot of people don’t know that I’m really left-handed.
Oh, alright. So, how does that help you from a basketball standpoint? Is that something people in practice and in games people aren’t used to, you being left-handed.
The thing is, whenever I play a sport, I use my right hand. So if you only see me in sports, you’re going to think, “Oh, she’s right-handed.” But in reality, I write with my left hand, I use utensils with my left hand. People don’t know that unless they see me on a daily basis.
So I was looking at your bio on Iona’s website recently, and your favorite basketball player is Steph Curry. What is it about Steph that attracts you to him, and do you try to make your game similar to his?
That’s it really. He’s a shooter. I’m a shooter. He has one of the best shots, if not the best shot, in the league. When he shoots the ball there’s a higher chance that it’s going in than it’s not.
I don’t really base my game, but I look up to his game. He’s worked hard to get where he’s at. A lot of people didn’t expect him to be as good as he is. I just admire him for his hard work.
If you were to build an NBA team with one player in the NBA, is Steph you’re go-to guy, or is LeBron James or one of the others?
No, I would definitely pick Steph. I would definitely pick Steph.
I also saw that the person that you want to meet most was Chris Brown. Why Chris Brown, and is he somebody you listen to when you have your headphones on pregame when you’re getting ready, suiting up?
Oh yeah, he’s definitely my favorite artist. I’ve been listening to him for years and I don’t like anybody better than I like him.
What’s your favorite Chris Brown song?
Oh, that’s an impossible answer. That’s an impossible answer. I couldn’t even pick a favorite.
What about an album? Do you have a favorite Chris Brown album?
Do I have a favorite album? Favorite album. Probably “Fortune.” The Fortune album is my favorite.