PITTSBURGH — It is no secret that Mike Lewis II has been a leader through his Duquesne men’s basketball career, but what has been more private was a partial tear in the patella tendon he had playing playing through.
The injury first occurred during senior year of high school, just two games before his state championship, and Lewis II had no interest in sitting out and the discomfort continued in transition towards his time at Duquesne.
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Lewis II had no interest in being behind and losing any playing time, so again the St. Louis, Mo. native played through the pain.
After Keith Dambrot’s hire and Lewis’s decision to remain at Duquesne, the pain started to become too much and it was later determined he had a partial tear in his patella tendon which came from tendonitis and general overuse.
In October, Lewis II asked Dambrot if it was a good idea to get a procedure which would keep him out 1.5 months, but the former decided the timing was not right.
“I didn’t want to sit out,” Lewis II said. “We kept going, I got treatment and played through all of last year but it limited me a lot. My explosiveness, I couldn’t cut as quick and could not get by guys, so I had to find different ways to score, no excuses. After the season, I wanted to get it fixed, because I want to take the next step in my game.”
Lewis II played through the pain all season long, and received treatment but it was clear the tight defense, some of which was double teams upon catching the ball, was the least of his worries.
“When I shoot, I like to tap my toe and it got to a point where I would tap and feel a slight pull,” said Lewis II. “It would be frustrating when I would drive and try to explode and couldn’t get as high. It kind of messed with me.”
Dealing with the injury was difficult both mentally and physically as he was in pain and knew it but wanted to give his all while also not hurting his team.
Lewis II got a PRP injection in April which kept him out a month and an additional injection created another two weeks away from the court.
COVETING STARTING SPOT
In Lewis II’s time at Duquesne one thing has been fairly consistent and that is his name being called by PA Announcer Dom Errico as part of the starting lineup.
Lewis II has started 61 of 64 games in his collegiate career and is expected to do the same in Saturday’s season opener against William & Mary, although this year the margin of who starts and who sits is thin.
Dambrot appears to be matching Lewis and returning sophomore guard Eric Williams Jr with freshman transfer Sincere Carry, with both Tavian Dunn-Martin and Brandon Wade very close behind.
In the scrimmages against Canisius and Saint Francis, this was the game plan and it would be a mild surprise if Duquesne changes the script, though practice can certainly effect the rotation.
Still, Dambrot was critical of Lewis II at Atlantic 10 Media Day citing improvements needed both in defense and with passing the basketball.
“He challenged me and told me if I don’t guard or defend, I will sit down,” Lewis II said. “Of course, I am up to the challenge. Getting my body fixed helped, I got a little more athletic which helps my defense and then I have just been more focused. I can be a good defender, but sometimes I lost focus and that’s what I can’t do. If I am not playing too well then I probably won’t go far. It’s definitely been coming along really well though. I’m just trying harder, defense is mostly about effort. As far as passing, if I get into the lane and see a guy, I worked on ballhandling a lot this summer.”
Something Dambrot is looking for is that first player off the bench to take on a Tarin Smith role among the guards. It seems cut and dry with the post as freshman Austin Rotroff is projected to take on that role with the posts as Michael Hughes and Marcus Weathers are expected to start.
Lewis II did not balk at the question about whether he would accept that sixth player role if that was the decision, though he made it clear how much starting means to him.
“I covet it a lot obviously because you work for it, that is what you want,” said Lewis II. “At the same time, I am not going to let my pride get in the way of the team. If I am not playing well and someone else is playing way better than me, then I can understand that but at the same time, I don’t want it to get to that situation, how about that? If it does happen, I would not quit on the team, of course it would sting a bit. You still have to play, you still have to contribute, but winning trumps everything.”
SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYS ROLE IN LEADERSHIP
This offseason, Lewis II was quite active on social media when others did not project the team to finish where he saw fit.
Disrespect gone stop soon 💯
— Mike Lewis II (@MikeLewisII) October 14, 2018
Bet 💯😴 https://t.co/l87acicrw4
— Mike Lewis II (@MikeLewisII) October 18, 2018
Duquesne was picked to place 11th in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Poll which Lewis II was clearly not happy with and let his feeling be known with other teammates following his lead.
Admittedly Lewis II takes such projections personally and while others claim that fixating on those polls is a waste of energy given that no games have even been played yet, the junior guard sees an opportunity to use a different approach.
“There is a difference between confident and cocky, obviously,” he said. “I don’t even talk a lot, but I like to use that to challenge my teammates to show them what others think of us. As a leader, I am not afraid to share my opinions. Of course we have a lot of work to do, we still have to win games. Every now and then, I feel it is fun to poke the bear a little bit. I understand where our team is at and where we can be. I want my teammates to have faith in us. I could say this and it could completely backfire on me, but this is how much confidence I have in our team, why don’t you have this much confidence?”