It was a tough day for Damion Lee and Trey Lewis.
The two fifth-year seniors on the University of Louisville basketball team attended ACC Media Day in Charlotte, N.C., for the Cardinals and fielded all kinds of questions about the allegations against the Cardinals' basketball program.
With coach Rick Pitino not attending on the advice of legal counsel, Lee and Lewis knew they were going to get the tough questions but the senior leaders for the Cardinals' were fine with it and actually "wanted to do this for our team."
But nobody could have predicted how well the two pulled off the day.
Lewis and Lee acted like professionals and won over the media in attendance by being sincere and honest. And it probably helped that Lewis ended the day playing a baby grand piano in a room at the Ritz Carlton with Lee and players from Clemson and North Carolina State joining him in a freestyle rap. It was the hit of the day.
"We understand why coach isn't here," Lewis said. "He's been advised by legal counsel to not talk about these matters going on. We understand why he's not here. He sent us because we are the leaders of this team, and we're here for that reason."
Lewis said in a later interview that he felt like "we were put here for a reason and this is it."
Added Lee: "We just have to embrace everything that’s going on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s positive or negative. This experience at Louisville, every part of it, is a blessing and an opportunity. I have a tattoo on the inside of my arm that says my gift is my curse. Things you are blessed with, people may try to turn it and turn it into a negative. But we just need to embrace everything, live in the moment, and try to be successful, not only for our families but also for our brothers and the coaching staff."
Both players said they knew nothing of the allegations before they became public, noting they have just been around since late spring. Lewis said when the news broke he actually sent a text to the rest of the team.
"I said, ‘I'm here for you guys'," Lewis said. He went on to say, "'There’s no other group of guys that I’d rather be with and fight for, day in and day out, and no matter what happens just know that I’ll always be your brother.'"
Swofford talks Louisville allegations
ACC commissioner John Swofford spoke at media day and was asked for the first time about the allegations against the Louisville program. The Cardinals are in the second year of playing in the ACC.
Swofford said U of L informed the league of Pitino's status and why he wasn't attending the media day event.
"In terms of Rick, yes in general it is mandatory for coaches to be here, but we did not feel it appropriate to try and stand in the way and negate legal counsel’s advice that was given to the University of Louisville," Swofford said. "We had discussions. Louisville knows that our strong preference is that all of our coaches be here. But these are extenuating circumstances, and I have to respect the legal advice that President (Dr. James) Ramsey and the athletic director Tom Jurich and Coach Pitino were given. And we respect that."
Swofford was then asked about the allegations in specific and said what has been alleged "has absolutely no place in college athletics, in any way, shape or form."
"There are multiple investigations going on to try and get to the truth of this issue," he said. "And I think we’ve all seen situations in recent years where things got out of hand in the wrong way initially, and then things turned out to be very different than what we thought or what appeared to be the case at the beginning. So I think we have to wait and see what comes out of the investigations, until we get to the truth of it, and then see.
"I have a lot of confidence in President Ramsey and Tom Jurich — and in Coach Pitino — so we’ll just have to see how this plays out."