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Headline: Human Highlight Reel
By Kyle Lamb
(From Jan. 2006 issue)
It was November 2004. As the Ohio State men's basketball team took the court in their first exhibition game of the season against Northern Kentucky, a shiny metallic suit drew the attention from the game to the guy sitting at the end of the bench.
This was no ordinary suit, mind you. This was cloth whose owner dressed to impress.
The suit's sparkle could nearly blind you from the lights shining down from the arena's rafters. People were talking.
Who was that unmasked man at the end of the bench making such a statement?
As you have probably learned by now, the man responsible for the colorful and bold choice in suits last season was 6-5 Ron Lewis.
Lewis brought his sideshow suits back from Bowling Green upon transferring last August and sitting out the entire 2004-05 season per NCAA transfer regulations. It was as if he never left Columbus to begin with.
"It was a year for me to grow, grow as a person," Lewis noted of his year without competitive basketball. "It was a chance to grow with ability and just get better."
Columbus was Lewis' home before college, as he played for Brookhaven High School. In fact, he was on the 2002 Division I state championship team that beat Cincinnati Moeller. Lewis played his part, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in earning first-team All-Ohio his senior season.
However, Lewis was not quite the attention grabber back then.
After all, during most of Lewis' high school career, it was Andrew Lavender, Brandon Foust and Jamelle Cornley that received most of the ink from the local and national press. Lewis was just the glue that held it all together.
But the truth always lied more towards the middle. It wasn't so much that Lewis wasn't a real star – he just came across as more like an unsung hero.
It didn't take long for people to figure it out, either.
Within weeks of arriving on scholarship at Bowling Green, Lewis was making a name for himself. He didn't get the heavy recruiting attention from the media or even from major colleges, but quickly he settled in with the Falcons along with high school teammate, Raheem Moss.
In his freshman season at Bowling Green, Lewis led all MAC freshmen with 12.5 points a game. It placed him on the All-MAC freshmen team.
His sophomore season was even better. Lewis finished sixth in the league in scoring at 17 points a game. He drew a reputation for being the hardest player to guard in the league.
However, before the fall of his junior season in 2004, Lewis decided to transfer for both individual and collective reasons, which included but was not limited to his friend Moss transferring to Cleveland State.
First-year OSU head coach Thad Matta showed interest upon learning of Lewis' release from Bowling Green and Lewis wound up going back home to Columbus to play for the Buckeyes. Lewis' presence was felt immediately both on the practice floor and in his fancy dress wear.
"Ron, being in the program last year, as we get started, he's going to have a good feel for what we want to do," Matta said of Lewis this season.
While Lewis often had a reputation after leaving Bowling Green, right or wrong, as being sometimes selfish and a little lackadaisical, his teammates at Ohio State describe him as hard-working and confident but humble.
"Ron is a real good player but also a real hard worker," his teammate, Je'Kel Foster said of Lewis. "I think he's confident in his abilities but he uses it to his advantage."
Quietly, however, Lewis might be ready to emerge and few people outside of Columbus or the Big Ten really know too much about him.
In two preseason games against Findlay and Ashland, Lewis led the team in scoring at 19 points a game. Lewis is easily the best player Ohio State has in terms of penetrating and beating his man off the dribble.
But while his 870 points in two seasons at Bowling Green was made mostly off his ability to get to the basket, which was the second-highest in school history for a two-year player, he has unleashed a new facet of his game.
Lewis proudly reports a new and improved outside shot. A three-point shot in his arsenal could make Lewis one of the best scorers in the Big Ten this year as a junior.
"It's there, but I'm not going to use it as my strong point," Lewis said. "I'm going to stick to what I've been doing. But it's there, it will come out."
He brings something even more important to Ohio State in 2005-06, however.
Last season, the Buckeyes were known as mostly a team willing to settle for three-pointers. This reputation was justified in the stats as only Terence Dials got to the free throw line very often. The result was often a major disparity between the points Ohio State would get from the charity stripe in a given game and what their opponents scored.
Lewis changes that.
In his sophomore season in 2003-2004, Lewis made 191 free throws. That is 40 percent of what the entire Ohio State team attempted (485) all of last year. Lewis shot 82 percent from the line of his 233 attempts.
It won't take a suit to grab your attention, either. Lewis is the type of individual with quite a bit of flash in his personality and on the basketball floor, but he's not without substance.
You might be mesmerized by his suits or even his highlight dunks and rightfully so. However, Matta believes he has much more than just that.
"Ron has a great attitude and he wants to get better," he said of Lewis. "He helps the team in a lot of different ways."
Lewis is the second player on the Ohio State roster to go back to his roots after making a stop elsewhere.
J.J. Sullinger, a 6-5 senior, transferred back to Ohio State two seasons ago from Arkansas. He played for the Razorbacks after not receiving a scholarship from Ohio State when he played at Thomas Worthington High School.
There's something about going home to play, according to Lewis.
"It's nice being able to come back and play in front of your friends and family," he added. "There's not much better than being able to play in front of everyone you grew up with."
There's little hiding Lewis' identity now. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and if he doesn't, he soon will. The hometown boy was once an unsung, overshadowed, hero, but now his arrival at Ohio State will not go unnoticed.
"He's a real good player and he will do some big things here," said senior co-captain Terence Dials. "He's big time."