Rice: Lewis' Improvement "Unbelievable"

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — The Rutgers basketball team may be down two forwards tomorrow night against LSU. The Tigers have the most size of any team the Scarlet Knights (4-3) have seen this season. Freshman forward Greg Lewis, who scored his first career points Monday night, becomes an important piece in combating LSU's size.

Sick, underweight and out of shape, Rutgers forward Greg Lewis started his first semester of college off in the worst way possible.

A burst appendix came at the worst possible time for Lewis, but three months later, the 6-foot-8 forward is back to his playing weight. His progress since the illness, said head coach Mike Rice, is "unbelievable."

"Because he had his appendix burst and because he took off the first three weeks of conditioning, he was bad," Rice said. "And there's a reason. He was out for two months and he was just getting his body back and his wind back. The last week, I saw the Greg who I recruited."

Lewis is one of six newcomers to the Scarlet Knights this semester and was a key part of Rice's highly touted recruiting class.

Ranked as the 25th center prospect in the country by Scout.com, Lewis has a lot of room to develop.

"He had the motor, the energy," Rice said of Lewis in the last week. "He has an edge to him and now I think he's progressing very nicely and, again, with maybe an injury in the future to another four-man, he can step in and have an opportunity to play."

Lewis set a series of career highs Monday night in a Rutgers blowout of UMBC. Growing up 11 miles from the UMBC campus, scoring his first four college points in 16 minutes on the court.

"It was a great feeling," Lewis said. "It was my first points of my college career, so it was exciting. I know a couple players from back home [on UMBC], so it was fun — a lot of trash talking."

For the Scarlet Knights (4-3) Lewis' improvement could not have come at a more important time.

Facing an LSU team tomorrow with six 6-foot-8 or taller players on the roster, Rutgers is down forward Kadeem Jack and may also be without Malick Kone, who sat out of practice yesterday with a right knee injury.

"[Lewis is] extremely important because I foul a lot," said sophomore starting forward Gilvydas Biruta. "We need depth and we need extra players for when I get in foul trouble, especially against a team like LSU."

Lewis, one point and one rebound in 7.3 minutes per game, said he is ready for whatever minutes Rice is willing to give him.

"I'm a lot better," Lewis said. "The main thing I think I'm better at is I'm more detailed. I think the details that Coach Rice teaches are making me better.

"It's all about preparation, so I just can't wait for Saturday. I think I'm prepared."

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