PITTSBURGH — Thursday evening, it was revealed that guard Mike Lewis II intends to transfer from Duquesne.
Really, the warning signs were there. A couple of weeks prior to the transfer, Lewis made his Twitter profile picture dark, perhaps a sign of things to come.
Lewis did not start in the team’s last game against Eastern Kentucky, the first time he was not in the starting five this season, nor did he appear in the final 25 minutes of the game.
After halftime, Lewis never took off his warmups and almost had a helpless look on his face watching the action unfolding. Essentially, he was reduced to being a fan. That certainly could not have sat well with him.
His exit comes at a time where he may be the healthiest he has been in a Duquesne uniform after playing the past two seasons with a partially torn patellar tendon. As of the start of the season, he was still not 100 percent, but the closest he’s been in quite some time.
Lewis is the fifth departure since the end of the 2017-18 season. Leonard Randall II left the team right before the season and transferred to UT Martin, citing mental health issues. Tydus Verhoeven transferred to UTEP over the offseason and both Marko Krivacevic (IUP) and Nicholas Kratholm (Longwood) also received their respective releases from the program.
On the surface, that seems like a lot, but remember, Dambrot brought in an eight-player freshman class and had five players redshirting a transfers a year ago. There was bound to be some turnover.
Lewis could have opted to honor Duquesne’s scholarship for the duration of the season, dealing with any obstacles in his way, and just grin and bear it. Of course, there always is the question as to whether Lewis fit Dambrot’s on-court vision and the former seemed to make that decision Thursday.
The expectation really has not changed, despite the transfer. This team has the potential to be a winner, even this season. There are several wrinkles this year’s team has which are exciting and with the Atlantic 10 more wide open than ever in recent memory, Duquesne certainly could be a contender if some things go right.
In terms of what this does for Duquesne, a preview may have been shown with the team’s last game against Eastern Kentucky, when Tavian Dunn-Martin started.
The read from sources close to the team was Dunn-Martin being viewed as better defender than Lewis. Lewis II was routinely the first of the starters to get a hook, and sometimes, it was very quick. Lewis was a streaky shooter and perhaps some of it was mental with the idea of missing a shot putting him back on the bench.
Dambrot is one who provides tough love to his players whether in practice, games or press conferences and Lewis was mentioned quite a bit in various media opportunities.
A year ago, Dambrot was consistently vocal towards Verhoeven, and it appeared that in games, Lewis was receiving much of the same, whether that was after mistakes or when jogging back to the bench during a substitution. Last season, Dambrot mentioned Lewis’s defense, especially when he was often flanked by Rene Castro-Caneddy and Tarin Smith to his sides.
With Sincere Carry consistently guarding an opposing team’s best player and Dunn-Martin showing an ability to make timely steals, Lewis’s defensive mistakes couldn’t have been more glaring.
Dambrot’s staff is a big proponent of the plus/minus statistic and both Dunn-Martin and Lewis are a +39 on the season to date, but the former has played 20 more minutes.
Another person this transfer helps is Lamar Norman, Jr. In a way, the two are similar in terms of the style of basketball they enjoy playing and this season Norman Jr has seen the court for 120 minutes but has a +49 to show for it, which is second on the team.
Dambrot likes Norman’s athleticism and that certainly can play on this Duquesne team. He only saw three minutes in that EKU game and it seemed as though there was some frustration that came from that decision.
Norman has shown the ability to score and defend and if he puts the two together, Dambrot will have no choice but to play him.
It has been a tough season for Brandon Wade, who has been playing out of position a bit. The most recent game against EKU, may represent his best in a Duquesne uniform. Perhaps this transfer allows him to get more run and become an important part of the rotation. Frankie Hughes also has started twice this season and will get more run as well.
It is amazing how just over two seasons ago, Dambrot was recruiting Lewis II to stay with the team, but the very same drive that was used to keep the guard, may have been the same determination that made the latter depart the university.
Lewis was a great player for Jim Ferry’s system and that was a team which did not rely much on its defense. Dambrot’s teams are ones which often transition defense to offense.
With many of Lewis’ teammates transferring after the coaching change, perhaps he saw that chance for Duquesne to be considered his team, but that never really panned out.
Lewis was teammates with Jayson Tatum in high school and also met with Jimmy Butler prior to last season. Lewis views himself as a professional basketball player and staying at Duquesne may not have been best for him in terms of reaching these goals.
Lewis was a crowd favorite and his transfer will bring sadness to some of that base and of course he brought positive headlines to Duquesne as well.
He will finish 21 points shy of 1,000 in his Duquesne career and because of the NCAA’s new transfer rules, coaches will be able to contact him immediately, though he would be unable to play for an undetermined amount of time that would be dictated upon when he enrolls in a new school.
Dambrot certainly tried to make things work and really did seem to enjoy coaching Lewis, but it seemed the gap was just too much to overcome and thus Lewis’ time at Duquesne is over.