TOC: Tyler Lewis Spotlight

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- With his team trailing by two points, and the final seconds ticking away in Friday night's Tournament of Champions opener, Tyler Lewis took control.

The Team Loaded point guard dribbled to the left corner and launched a three-pointer that swished with 4.2 seconds remaining.

"I really couldn't see the clock at the time since it was behind me," Lewis said, "so I saw the first open look I had and I just shot it."

The game-winner was the culmination of a 24-point, 7-assist effort for the Lewisville (N.C.) rising junior, who had to shift his focus in the second half.

Team Loaded was showing the rust from a recent layoff, lacking rhythm on offense and surprisingly trailing by as many as eight points in the second half. Lewis is well known as a pass-first floor general, but he recognized his team's offensive struggles and looked to score.

"We were out of synch, we hadn't played in two weeks and a lot of the spacing wasn't there, so I felt like I had to take over in the second half," Lewis said.

He transformed from point guard to scoring guard, hitting a series of driving lay-ins and and short runners, while getting to the free throw line courtesy of his attacking mentality.

"Big time players have to hit big time shots – that's my mentality," he said. "I have to step up in the clutch."

Despite his teams' success and his personal accolades, Lewis has his share of doubters. Critics observe his slight frame and question whether he's big enough and tough enough for the top levels of high school basketball and beyond.

Lewis is well aware that this opinion exists, but he's got a response.

"The size of the heart is most important," he said. "I don't think anybody comes out here and plays with more heart than I do. I always have the mentality that I want to win, so that helps me fight through everything."

With that said, Lewis is making efforts to improve his strength and speed, and says he's seeing results.

"I've gotten quicker – my lateral quickness has gotten better - and stronger, my size overall," he said.

With four ACC scholarship offers in hand already (from Virginia Tech, NC State, Miami and Wake Forest), Lewis is still a ways from figuring out his college plans.

"I'm in no hurry to make a decision," he said. "I really haven't taken college visits yet. I think this time next year I'll be making my decision."

Meanwhile, his childhood favorite, North Carolina, is beginning to track him closely.

"It's a school I grew up watching – it's been my favorite team since I was little," Lewis said, , having just hit the dramatic shot on the home court of the Tar Heels. "They're showing a little bit of interest and hopefully it'll pick up.

"They invited me to come down to a game and they've invited me to come down and take a visit, but I haven't had time to come down and take that visit.

"Hopefully I can come down here one day."

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