When Chavaughn Lewis scores his final point at McCann Arena on Friday night, he will be one of the best players to ever step on the floor at the town of Poughkeepsie school. The only problem: so few people saw his greatness.
For a player who is 49 points shy of the school record entering Friday night, his teams – due to their lack of team success – have drawn an average of just over 1,300 fans a night in his four seasons. Lewis has given Marist fans 2,029 reasons to like him, the number of points the 6’5″ senior has put up prior to his final game at McCann Arena against Saint Peter’s. However, barring a crowd over 2,000 on Friday night, the only home game he played in front of more than 2,000 fans was this season’s home opener against Army, according to Marist’s statistics.
The senior has put together a career that has arguably been matched by very few Red Fox players in school history, probably the last of which was Jared Jordan. However, the connection that Lewis and his fellow seniors share, other than their connection to three head coaches in a span of four seasons, is their connection to New York City.
Chuck Martin, even in his final season, would trek down into New York City to help spread the word on Marist and deliver talent so they could compete in MAAC play. Martin’s New York City-centric classes culminated in this group of seniors. Lewis and T.J. Curry led the way as instant impact players, and Manny Thomas – who has provided a scoring punch in his career at times – this class was meant to turn it around, even if it wasn’t under Martin.
For a coach, who said in his final season that when Devin Price scored over 1,000 points was a reflection of his Marist coaching career, his finding and nurturing of Lewis is even more evidence. Now an assistant under head coach Tom Crean at Indiana, Martin reflected on what Lewis stood for as he approached the school’s scoring record.
“He is for sure, I think, the face of my tenure there,” Martin said of Lewis, when reflecting on the senior’s accomplishments. “If I had to, in a sentence, describe my stay there, what defined you there, I think Chavaughn was a city kid, like me.”
“I think, at the time, Marist wanted to recruit city kids, who fit the Marist culture and so he kind of encompassed all of that: city kid, great family, good student, tremendous potential to be a really good player, a winner, high character kid.”
Lewis’ coaches can not stop raving about things other than his scoring ability. Each of his head coaches, in one way or another, said the same thing: they admire his toughness and that toughness has been tested multiple times. After all, the head coach who recruited him was fired, the next season his team started 0-9, and this season he and his teammates have battled injuries as they sit at the bottom of the conference standings.
Chavaughn Lewis is the type of player coaches remember, and not just for his ability to score. After talking to now Detroit Pistons general manager Jeff Bower, one of Lewis’ former coaches, he quickly called back sharing a story how he recalled seeing in Lewis’ eyes that he would not give up, even when some of his teammates might have started to put their heads down.
“Somebody has to lead the charge, there has to be somebody to lead everybody up the hill,” Bower said. “As the most experienced guy he had a big part and it was a big part of his role.”
Yet, through all that, there is confidence that the next week could bring more success than the last four years have. While the team’s record is not to be desired for seeding in next week’s MAAC tournament, there may be an opportunity for them to make some noise on Saturday, given the right match up. Of course, they will have to get past the first round, something they last did during Lewis’ freshman season.
Lewis said he felt blessed and honored to pass Rik Smits, for second all-time, but doesn’t focus on the record book.
“I honestly felt along with that would have came a championship by my junior year or senior year,” Lewis said. “I’m hard working and I set a lot of high goals for myself, so I wouldn’t say I knew it was going to be to this extent, but I knew I was going to be up there in Marist history. That was my main goal, I wanted to come here and make an impact and make a difference. That was a part of my agenda, so in doing so, I think I accomplished some of what I wanted to accomplish.”
So Marist fans better appreciate Chavaughn Lewis’ career and accomplishments on Friday night and for as long as he continues his season for the Red Foxes; because they may not see another player like him for a long time.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.