KJ Lewis and His Larger Than Life Problem of Playing in El Paso
In case you missed it Monday night, Chapin easily handled Horizon in their Bi-District playoff game. However, star guard KJ Lewis was thrown out in the game after this play in the fourth quarter.
It is obvious from Colin Deaver's video that Lewis initiated the contact and deserved the offensive foul call. What is not clear in the highlight is what the Chapin junior said to the official that prompted a double technical foul call and subsequent ejection from the game. Yesterday afternoon, KJ issued an apology on Twitter for his actions.
Lewis will have to miss Chapin's area playoff game against either Amarillo Tascosa later this week as a result of the ejection. The only way that he can play is if the official rescinds the second technical foul against him. KJ is not someone who normally loses his cool on the court. In fact, he had never been ejected from a game until Monday night.
The bigger issue here is that the city's best high school player since the late Cliff Tucker has been beat up by opposing teams because he is quicker and stronger than other players on the wing. At six-foot four, KJ's frame better resembles an NBA prospect at his current age and local players are not able to elevate to his level when he attacks the rim. Instead of being protected by those officiating his games, he allegedly gets told that he should be able to handle the physical contact he receives since his skill level is elite compared to the rest of El Paso's competition. I am not advocating that Lewis gets treated with kid gloves. However, he also should not be getting beat up because other teams are not on his level.
Chapin High School head varsity basketball coach Rodney Lewis (no relation) is very close to KJ and his family, and the longtime coach built his program around his star player. As Lewis has been heavily recruited, many of his teammates have also benefitted from the exposure. If Chapin can defeat Tascosa without Lewis, he will get another chance to take the Huskies deep into the state playoffs. Otherwise, he might have played his last high school game in El Paso, and that is not the way Lewis should have to go out.
It would not surprise me if KJ moves out of town for his senior season and instead goes to a larger city with better competition. He is already close to picking a university to play college basketball, so staying in town does nothing to improve his game. If he goes to a high school or prep academy with better competition, he will not have to be targeted like he is in El Paso every time he laces his shoes. It is a sad situation, because a generational talent like KJ Lewis should not be forced to leave a city like this one. Who knows when we will see another player like this come through the Borderland?