Niagara Gazette

Sports

March 8, 2010

COMMENTARY: The singular talent of Tyrone Lewis

A thousand men, more or less, have played the MAAC basketball circuit over the past 30 years, and not one can match Tyrone Lewis’ numbers — 1,849 points, 523 rebounds, 222 assists, 250 steals, 290 3-pointers, 76 blocked shots.

That’s not to suggest he’s the best player in league history. Not even Lewis’ biggest fan, Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, would say that. Neither could he claim to be the all-time greatest Purple Eagle, a title etched in stone by Calvin Murphy.

Shorter than 6 feet but able to outleap anyone on the floor, Lewis encouraged comparisons to the legendary Murphy, with both his play and personality. Lewis won’t go on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, but if he’s honored before a game at the Gallagher Center in 30 years, he’ll likely evoke the same reverential reception that Murphy’s recent visits did.

Keep in mind that for all of Murphy’s incredible performances on Monteagle Ridge, the Purple Eagles had just one great year with him, losing more games than they won in the two seasons before going to the NCAA tournament in 1970.

With Lewis, Niagara won 86 games, the best four-year stretch in school history.

Lewis dazzled from the day he took the court in his freshman year, and even as the sixth man, he was the catalyst for Niagara’s march to the NCAA tournament and was recognized as such when he became the first frosh to win MAAC tournament MVP.

As a junior, Lewis was the dynamic leader, on offense and defense, of a team that finished with 26 wins, essentially a school record when you look at the competition faced by the 27-win 1921-22 team. The Purple Eagles led the nation in road wins last year, bubbled into the discussion for an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament, and wound up being asked to host an NIT game.

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