Many times when you read about a basketball high school senior taking a fifth prep year of secondary schooling, the motivation is one of academic qualification. A kid could not meet the minimum eligibility requirements of the NCAA clearinghouse and has to spend another year improving on his GPA and/or SAT. Given how low the NCAA minimum sets the bar for the sliding scale of classroom and test score numbers, there is an understandable stigma associated with prep fifth-year decisions. But few prominent prepsters are like Cameron Lewis, who holds a 3.4 cumulative GPA and 1280 SAT from the prestigious St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. and is heading to the elite Exeter Academy in New Hampshire this fall.
"I thought I was underrecruited," Lewis maintains on his last 12 months of (in)attention from college coaches. "I thought I had a pretty good season, but I didn't get the number of shots that most recruits can get at their school."
The 6'8" 210-pound power forward averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds for St. Albans this past year, but as a scorer he was lost on an exceptionally talent Bulldogs squad. Four players averaged double figures on the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) co-champions, including Cameron Dantley (son of former NBA great Adrian Dantley) and Manny Quezada (Rutgers signee and one-time Stanford recruit). Quezada averaged 27 points this year, which left few scoring opportunities for anybody on the roster; thus Lewis was forced to excel in other available areas of his game.
"I'm a pretty athletic player who was best at rebounding this year," the D.C. recruit describes. "When Manny has the ball and can score like he can, you get to the glass and help your team in other ways."
Lewis did shine in his roll, though, particularly in the 64-63 win in the IAC Tournament championship against powerhouse Georgetown Prep. Against a frontline that included a pair of top 100 national seniors in 6'9" Davis Nwankwo and 7'2" Roy Hibbert, the St. Albans senior was aggressive and productive in the paint. He pulled down 12 boards and scored a big 13 points in that celebrated upset win.
"I'm working now on my offensive skills away from the basket," Lewis says of his spring/summer workouts and goals. "I am developing a pull-up jump shot and taking defenders off the dribble away from the basket. My moves around the basket are gtting better. I'm stronger and I'm jumping a lot higher. I'm already a very athletic player, but I want to be more complete."
With a long frame and a vertical leap in the mid-30s, Lewis can defend and rebound at a high level. As he describes, his strength and offensive skills are the areas of key development. His physical development and limited exposure a year ago kept him mostly under the recruiting radar. Coming out of the summer of 2003, he self-describes his recruitment as having "no high-majors." Vermont and Navy offered, and during his senior season at St. Albans he added offers from the likes of Boston University, William & Mary and UTEP.
He could have taken one of those rides and started college this fall, but after talking things over with his parents, Lewis opted for a fifth year to further his development and give himself a chance to gain more exposure. The deal his parents cut him was that he could delay college for a year if and only if his prep year was at a top academic institution. Thus he will find himself at the renowned Phillips Exeter Academy. The basketball at Exeter cannot match what Lewis could have found at some of the more common prep destinations for hoops prospects, but much of the splash he hopes to make should come on the summer circuit.
The D.C. denizen is playing this summer on the AAU travel circuit with New Heights, which was formerly known as the CAS Warriors. Lewis unfortunately is running into a similar problem that he had at St. Albans this past year - scarce touches. He is teamed with Sean McCurdy, a consensus top 100 point guard in the 2005 class, as well as Lance Thomas, an elite top 50 small forward from the 2006 class. To wit, in a recent game at the Rumble in the Bronx, Thomas scored 24 of the team's first 36 points.
"When people see me, they may not see my best," Lewis cautions because of the surrounding talent on his AAU team. "Lance Thomas gets most of the touches, but I'm doing well so far. I can still show coaches what I can do."
Those coaches caught some good glimpses of his ability in the April evaluation period, and he now is being actively recruited by the likes of Stanford, Boston College, St. John's, Clemson and Georgia.
"Stanfod is my favorite so far," he comments on the spike of schools he has seen lately. "I'm not as high on some of the schools right now because of the education, but there are others who are showing interest and talking a lot with my coach. Vanderbilt and Georgetown - I'd really like to get into personal contact with them. But Stanford is the best academic and athletic school in the nation. It's basically what I'm looking for."
"I'm in touch with Coach Fuller and almost done with my application," Lewis says of his Stanford contact. "We need to see how my admissions status goes, and they will be watching me more this summer. We should know how things will go after July."
During the July period, Cameron Lewis will be seen in Las Vegas and immediately afterward at the Best of Summer event in Los Angeles. He is not yet sure which individual shoe camp he will attend.
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