Playing Through Pain: Greg Lewis' Last Ride is Rutgers Basketball Senior Day

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Baltimore's Greg Lewis was a silent warrior through a physically painful senior season at Rutgers. Described by Eddie Jordan as potentially the best kid he ever coached, Lewis says his Rutgers farewell Saturday on senior day against Minnesota.

What the public sees in 6-foot-9 Greg Lewis is a two-year starting center with pedestrian statistics and consistent defense.

What goes unseen, however, could fill a lengthy book.

From the two hours per day in the training room to the help he needs to walk out of the RAC after each frustrating loss of 2016, Lewis literally gave his body to Rutgers basketball as one of Eddie Jordan’s team captains.

“It’s a mental battle more than anything,” Lewis said. “Before games especially, I like to get away from everything and just prepare myself for the fight. Most of the time I can’t really perform the way I want to but I just try to be there for my teammates and try to give it all I’ve got.”

Lewis has tendinitis in one knee with a cyst in his opposite ankle. The knee pains come from what Lewis calls “post-surgery malfunctions” in addition to bone bruises that stemmed from a season played on a sprained ankle.

Lewis’ chronic knee issues date back to his sophomore year and surgeries, and health was a consistent roadblock for the Baltimore native since he enrolled late as a freshman after a burst appendix.

“He’s probably the best kid I’ve ever coached and the best player I’ve ever coached as far as being coachable and doing anything you ask of him without any complaints and any second guessing,” said Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan. “He’s been a terrific guy for us.”

A projected summer graduate with a master’s degree in labor relations, Lewis hopes to continue his basketball career. Getting healthy comes first, and starts with the simple things like steps and pain-free sleep.

“I’m pretty good walking up steps,” Lewis said. “Usually after the games, I need help.”

Saturday marks senior day for Lewis, who plays his final home game at the RAC. A 1 p.m. tipoff against Minnesota, Lewis expects an emotional farewell with his immediate family and grandparents.

“They really don’t get the opportunity to see me play a lot due to work and other responsibilities but hopefully they can share a great experience with me,” Lewis said.

Lewis was one of four players that stood with Jordan April 23, 2013 when he took a position. He never considered a departure.

“[I thought about] the reason I came here,” Lewis said. “I didn’t want to abandon ship. No diss to any of my former teammates but I came here for a reason and that was to be a part of something great. Hopefully I helped build a foundation and some of the fans can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully these young guys can continue the foundation.”

Lewis’ career numbers are unassuming but his value and effort transcends numbers as a steady presence for a program filled with turmoil. Originally a commitment to Mike Rice in the highest-best recruiting class since Scout started its rankings, Lewis started 63 games for Rutgers and 35 against Big Ten opponents.

As a red-shirt junior, Lewis put up his strongest season with 5.3 points and 4.5 boards per game in his first year as a starter. Lewis enters senior day with 338 career points, 362 rebounds and 81 blocks in 111 games. Lewis developed a stronger mid-ranger jumper under Jordan but never attempted a three-point shot in his college career.

“I try to look at the bigger picture,” Lewis said on a record-breaking losing streak “All of this losing is preparing us for life, not just me but my teammates and the younger guys, they’re getting experience with a lot of minutes out there. I think it definitely prepares them for what’s at hand in the future for the next couple of years.”

The future, with freshman Corey Sanders in the spotlight, respects what Lewis did and how he did it in a Rutgers uniform.

"He brings a lot of positivity and he’s a leader out there on the floor," Sanders said. "Having Greg out there is a plus for us with his size and he fights. He works hard. That’s something I look at. He works hard and makes me work hard. I feed off Greg."

If Rutgers wants Lewis and fellow seniors Jalen Hyde, Bishop Daniels and Omari Grier to have a proper sendoff, it starts at the perimeter.

In the last three games, including a road loss to pre-suspensions Minnesota, opponents are 42-of-81 from long range including a Big Ten record for Bryn Forbes of Michigan State.

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