Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

June 2, 2014

Making the Leap

Hard work leading Rashad Lewis to college

VALDOSTA — “Before basketball, I was just a young kid that wanted to hang out with my friends and just have fun,” said 18-year old Rashad Ricardo Lewis, a graduate of Valdosta High School whose high school career was fulfilled by leading the Wildcats on the basketball court.

Playing basketball all his life, Lewis never took it seriously until moving to Valdosta permanently when he was in the eighth grade.

“When I started playing with the Valdosta Pride after my eighth grade year, we were in a tournament. I didn’t get to play that much, but a guy named Clarence Smith on the other team fouled out. A coach from the other team came to our coach and said ‘When are you going to put someone on (Smith) who can guard him?’ and I was guarding him at the time. I couldn't really do anything about it then, but from that moment on, I knew I had to get better,” said Lewis.

As a point guard, Lewis is a key player to any basketball team’s roster, scoring 19 points a game his senior year. The most important thing that Lewis accomplished as a senior however was his development as a leader.

“Senior year really challenged me to grow up," Lewis said. "I wasn’t a big leader on the team freshman through junior year. Freshman year we had Jay Rome, sophomore year we had Terrence Foster, junior year we had Clarence Smith. With me being one of the only returning seniors, it really made me mature faster because I had to be a leader. We had a lot of young guys that we expected a lot from and we needed someone to help push them, I was that guy.

“Being a leader of the team taught me to be patient. Some players may not get it as quick as others and you learn that you can’t talk to everyone the same. Some teammates, I can be harsh and go straight to them, but others teach you that you have to come to them on positive note. More importantly, it helped me learn how to talk to people better.”

Lewis will always remember his senior season, but nothing stood out more than his 23-point performance against Tift County and its star player Tadric Jackson.

“I kept saying that I wanted to beat Tift this year," Lewis said. "They had beaten us so many times before it was like a Michael Jordan-Detroit Pistons thing. Jordan kept losing to the Pistons until Jordan finally had enough.

"This year, we overcame Tift. It was one of the most memorable games this season."

The Wildcats are known for another rivalry however, one with in-town school Lowndes. This rivalry is a reason why Lewis states he loved going to Valdosta High.

“I loved the Lowndes vs. Valdosta rivalry. I loved how serious we took it," Lewis said. "Whenever it’s a topic about either school, I’m always on the Wildcats side. The teachers and coaches are a real support system; it’s like one big family when it comes to 'Cat country."

Now with high school behind him, Lewis is headed to college with new skills and new characteristics that will help him out at the next level. Recently signing with the University of South Carolina-Aiken, Lewis knew that the college was made for him.

“When I stepped on the campus, I could tell the coach was all about winning," he said. "He didn’t say anything would be given to me, the players were like a family and everything would be fast-paced. That was just like my VHS home to me. I felt like it was a good fit."

Lewis has not decided whether he will begin school this summer or just wait until fall. What Lewis does know though, is that he plans to work hard whenever he arrives on campus to become a starter.

> “I plan on working hard as a freshman to get a starting spot," Lewis said. "They lost a lot of seniors so the spot is pretty much up for grabs."

While Lewis might seem all about basketball, he has a drive to do well academically in addition to an artistic side that most may not know about.

“I learned freshman year that it’s all about academics," he said. "I’m really good at drawing so I’m considering getting a degree in that, but I’m still undecided. But I know I want to get a degree. A lot of people don’t know that I can draw really well. I’m into music also, I think I can rap a little but I only do it around my friends."

Lewis has plans to learn a lot at USC-Aiken, both on the court and off.

“I want to learn, mature and experience a lot," he said. "With basketball, I hope to win a championship and have fun while I’m there.”

Lewis mentioned that he has been called cocky before but on the contrary, he is very humble.

“I come off like I’m cocky on the court but I’m confident in my skills and take pride in what I do, Lewis said. "I think of myself as actually humble. I’m a real caring person. I like to work out with other kids to help them get better, like Dayton Hall and Justin Williams. Anytime they call me to workout, we always go to the gym, regardless of the time of the day.”

Lewis spends a lot of his time working on his basketball skills, whether through studying YouTube videos or actually training in the gym.

“I watch the NCAA basketball tournament because I like to learn new skills and watch things the players are doing, since I’m soon to be on that level, he said. "If I’m not physically working out, I’m watching YouTube videos about basketball. I pretty much work on my skills daily.

“Outside of basketball, I like to hang out with my family.”

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