BOZICH | For Louisville, Lee, Lewis have been who Pitino thought they were
Louisville needed Damion Lee and Trey Lewis to contribute immediately this season. Through six games, the two fifth-year seniors have been what Rick Pitino hoped they would be.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There’s no “My Bad” in the vocabulary of a fifth-year senior. They can’t talk about waiting ‘til next year. Fifth-year seniors are more one-and-done than any first-year freshman.
When Damion Lee and Trey Lewis talk about preparing for Louisville’s game with Grand Canyon Saturday afternoon as if this is the first Saturday in March, pay attention. Six games into their U of L careers they’re still convinced this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
That’s also the way Lee and Lewis are playing.
“For Trey and myself, just to have this opportunity to play at this level, be at this school and be a part of this community, we’re grateful for it,” Lee said.
“It stems from knowing this is our last year of college basketball,” said Lewis.
They’re leading the Cardinals in scoring – Lee at 18.3 per game, Lewis 13.8. Either Lee or Lewis has led U of L in scoring in all six games.
Rick Pitino does not have to lecture them about not taking contested shots. They’re both making at least a third of their three-point field goal attempts as well as 83 percent of their free throws.
Lee leads the Cardinals in steals and free throw attempts. Lewis ranks second in free throw attempts, defensive rebounds and assists – with a solid assist to turnover ratio of 2.2 to 1.
If you’re a fan of advanced college basketball statistics, the web site sports-reference.com has a Win Shares formula that shows Lee (1.5) and Lewis (1.2) are the only U of L players whose performances are on track to translate into one extra victory per season more than an average player.
Yes, they still must prove themselves during the twice-a-week grind of the Atlantic Coast Conference. But nearly halfway through Louisville’s non-league schedule, Lee (a transfer from Drexel) and Lewis (from Cleveland State via Penn State) have been everything Pitino hoped they would be.
“We definitely have a chip on our shoulders,” Lewis said about this 5-1 U of L team, which started this season ranked outside the Top 25.
“Every time we step on the floor we want to prove ourselves. We believe that we were better than the last team we played (at Michigan State Wednesday) but there are also mental errors that we have to correct to play at that level consistently.”
Lewis said that he contributed to that defeat by making two unnecessary turnovers down the stretch. Lee was in the middle of several defensive breakdowns that Pitino started discussing in the locker room before the team left the Breslin Center Wednesday night.
“If (the older guys) are hustling or talking, that’s something that starts from the top and goes down,” Lee said. “As players we need to be the ones out there and show the example.
“The coaches aren’t out on the court with us. They’re just instructing us and putting us in the right places and the right positions. The leadership should come from within the players.”
Leadership was often a mystery for the Cardinals last season. Wayne Blackshear did not have a powerful personality. He preferred to defer. Montrezl Harrell did have a powerful personality. But it’s fair to wonder if some of his rants unsettled younger players in the locker room.
Terry Rozier was a scorer, not a leader. Chris Jones was no longer around by March.
When Lee yells, it’s typically words of encouragement. Check the pre-game video that airs before tipoff at the KFC Yum! Center.
Lee gets the adrenaline flowing by asking which players have his back. His teammates answer the question by shouting they’ve got his back. Lee said he borrowed the idea from the Seattle Seahawks and their all-pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
“It’s just something we thought of as a team,” Lee said. “Every team you’re going to have your ups and downs.
“But for us, we feel it’s something that can definitely bring us closer on and off the court … it was something I thought could be implemented with us and bring us closer together.”
Copyright 2015 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.