BOZICH | Lee, Lewis keep saying AND doing right things for Louis - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Lee, Lewis keep saying AND doing right things for Louisville

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Damion Lee (left) and Trey Lewis have been model leaders for this U of L basketball team. Damion Lee (left) and Trey Lewis have been model leaders for this U of L basketball team.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- By now I expected a few angry words, harsh expressions or bad body language to trickle out of Damion Lee or Trey Lewis.

Cheap shots at the NCAA. Criticism of top University of Louisville administrators for the school's self-imposed post-season ban. At least a little, "woe is me."

Examples have been all around them. If somebody would have taken the NCAA and conference tournaments away from me with a month left in my senior season, I would have exercised my venomous moment.

How about you?

Not Damion Lee.

Not Trey Lewis.

No anger. No finger-pointing. No telling anybody they had a better way. No howling at the moon. No regrets on the eve of their final home game Tuesday at 8:06 p.m. against Georgia Tech in the KFC Yum! Center.

Dillon Avare, the other departing player on Louisville's basketball team, said it best. "They've not only talked the talk, they've walked the walk," Avare said.

This is not an act. This is the way it's been since U of L made the wise decision to make Lee and Lewis the faces of the basketball program in October:

Say the right thing. Do the right thing.

Over. And over. And over.

They did it at ACC basketball media day in North Carolina, a maximum exposure event they attended even though head coach Rick Pitino did not. They did it again Monday while providing more insights into their Senior Night thoughts.

"Everyone says this is a very special place," Lee said. "A real goal to come here.

"I had two main things: One was to put myself in a position to win a national championship. OK, we can't do that. It's gone. I'm not complaining.

"Another thing was to be part of a family, and I think what I've done successfully is sort of brought this team together a little bit."

"(You're) torn in a way because of course you want to play in the tournament," Lewis said. "Of course you don't want all these things to happen.

"But you see the good that's happened, just people coming together and support you. You feel loved.

"It's a range of emotions. As a leader, you try to keep a straight face. You have to stay composed. You have to lead your troops. You can't allow them to see you wavering. You have to be strong.

"It's taught me how to be strong. It's taught me how to be a better leader. I'll always look at how this experience has strengthened me and made me a better person. When you look at it from that perspective, you grow."

I can't write it better than Lee and Lewis said it. I can't.

That's not simply the way that it was done Monday at the press conference. That is the way they have talked about their one-and-done experience at Louisville since last summer when they made the trip to Puerto Rice and started creating the identity of this team, the one that has won 22 of 29 games, including 11 of 16 in the ACC.

Remember: When this season began, Louisville was picked to finish seventh in the ACC. The Cards were ranked 32nd nationally in the Associated Press pre-season college basketball poll. Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell were not walking through that door.

Lee and Lewis? Just two guys that had starred in mid-major roles (Lee at Drexel, Lewis at Cleveland State) but had not proved they could excel in the big leagues.

Louisville is currently tied with Virginia for third place in the league. The Cardinals will need assistance but they can still finish with a piece of the ACC title. They're ranked 11th in the AP poll.

Credit Lewis and Lee. They should be remembered for the way they shaped the personality of this team more than the points they scored or the plays they made. (For the record, they have scored a lot of points and made a lot of plays. They lead Louisville in scoring -- Lee at 16.3 per game, Lewis at 11.7.)

They should be remembered because they kept grinding even when they had to be tempted to stop grinding and start grumbling. On Monday, they even passed when they were asked a question about how they would create a better way for the NCAA to deal with a situation like the one at U of L.

"I really feel like this team is special," Lee said. "Just throw basketball out the window. This team is probably the best group of guys I've been around as a collective unit.

"I mean, I've been in college for 17 years. Seriously, this group of guys is amazing."

Said Lewis, "I just want to go down as a team that always fought to the end and persevered."

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