The longest distance I had to drive to see any game at the Big Time hoops tournament in Las Vegas was way up north of Vegas to see Rob Lewis and his Inner City Hoops squad. Rob is best known as a football recruit who has given a verbal commitment, albeit soft, to USC, but he is a hoops junkie who has been spending much of his summer in leagues and tournaments.
His Montclair Prep high school team took 2nd place in a very hotly contested tournament hosted at home, losing a tight final game to the familiar Wolverines of Harvard-Westlake. The two schools are bitter rivals, and it was a stinging loss. At a more recent tournament in Palm Springs, Rob played perhaps his best ball of the summer, earning tournament MVP honors.
What I saw Rob do in Vegas was limited, though, with a bruised knee. His mobility was most effected, but his physical play and ferocious effort were clear. This is the prototypical football athlete you do not want to face on the basketball court.
When I asked Rob to describe himself as basketball player, he said simply, "I'm a defender," with a big grin on his face. The word 'defense' should almost be spelled with four letters in this AAU environment, but Rob Lewis relishes the role of shutting down and beating on his opponent. Similar traits you love to see in a defensive end, which is exactly why Stanford and USC want him so much.
On top of a lot of basketball, Rob has been hitting the weights every day, and has had workouts with his football team. Mondays and Tuesdays on the field, which will soon grow to the full regiment of fall practices. But the most striking time commitment Rob Lewis has made this summer has been in the classroom. He has spent two hours per day, every day from Monday to Friday, on SAT preparation. That is one heck of a commitment, and it frankly speaks volumes to his Stanford interest at this time.
In addition to his SAT-boosting aims, Rob has gotten in touch with the Stanford staff and is now in a regular pattern of calling them once a week. Tom Williams is his main man, both as a defensive coach and also as the regional recruiter for the area.
Add up his basketball, football and scholastic commitments, and it is hard to see much else left for this high school kid during the normally carefree days of summer. Says Rob with a smile, "I have no social life. I'm just too tired at night to do anything else." No time even to see the ladies, Rob? "Oh, they'll still be there during the school year." Rob grins and brims with confidence. Just another little sign that tells me this kid and Stanford have some dancing to do.
One note of commentary: when I heard that Rob and Stanford still had not talked by phone for weeks after he told me he was opening his recruitment to the Cardinal, my suspicion was that the story would not be more than just that. Now I hear that Rob calls every week and is busting his butt on SAT prep to the detriment of many other fun summer plans. This has gone from an interesting story to a very real recruiting battle. And Stanford looks to have the momentum right now. Any verbal commitment is tough to overcome, but this thing has some legs.