Senior Dwight Lewis Is The Transitioning Trojan

Dec. 13, 2009

Since his junior year in high school USC guard Dwight Lewis has seen a lot of changes, but the laid back Louisianan has rolled with the punches and come out on top. First there was Hurricane Katrina which uprooted him from his home in Metarie, La. and landed him in Katy, Texas for his senior season, quite a transition.

'I guess I'm a laid back guy,' said Lewis. 'Especially when dealing witheverything that went on with Katrina. It got to me, but not too bad and I didn't show it. It helps me to cope with everything that has gone on.'

Then there was coming to USC for the 2006-07 season where the school itself was transitioning into a new state-of-the-art facility, the Galen Center. First he hadto learn to accept a lesser roll despite coming in with a sparking high school senior scoring average of 21.0 points per game after scoring 27.5 as a junior. He had no problem with the role and worked hard on his defense, one of former head coach Tim Floyd's main prerequisites for playing time. As the season wore on, Lewis began to see more time and ended up making 11 starts and averaging 5.8 points.

In his sophomore season, Lewis transitioned into the starter's role and averaged10.8 points, scoring in double figures 18 times. He also became the guy the coachwould more often than not call upon to cover the opponents' top scorer. Though USChad lost Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt to the NBA, top recruit O.J. Mayo was added tothe team and quickly established himself as the go-to offensive guy.

As a junior last season, Lewis really stepped up his game averaging 14.4 points andbecoming the Trojans' main outside scoring threat. The team also featured newfreshman sensation DeMar DeRozan and three-year starters Taj Gibson and DanielHackett which seemed to garner most of the attention, despite the fact that Lewis led the Pac-10 Tournament Champion squad in scoring. Though still playing soliddefense, he also relinquished the role of defensive stopper to Marcus Simmonswho became the team's primary lockdown guy late in the season.

'I've learned you have to adapt to situations and be versatile,' said Lewis.'I learned to transition and to do what coaches want me to do. Probably thething that has changed the most since I arrived here is my attitude. I came inthinking I knew everything, but learned how to listen and to communicate withthe coaches.'

This year the whole program has joined Lewis in making a transition asstarters DeRozan, Gibson and Hackett all left USC early for the NBA Draft andhead coach Tim Floyd resigned.

New head coach Kevin O'Neill took over in late June and wasted no time insaying that the team would go as far as Dwight Lewis could carry them.

'Dwight is going to be a No. 1 option for us,' said O'Neill. 'As he goes, basically, we'll go. I think he's more than up to that task. He's a guy that has experience on three NCAA teams, a guy who can be a leader effort-wise and in a locker room.'

Lewis knows this is a big season for him personally and for the basketball program and believes they have the ability to surprise people.

'You can expect hard play and a `don't quit attitude' from our team, no matter what,' said Lewis, who could easily have been describing himself. But then, when a player assumes more of a leadership role, it is only natural that the team would embody the same attributes of its leader.

Some of the things Lewis has accomplished along his winding journey to hissenior season at USC are moving into the Trojans' all-time top 30 in scoring andtop 15 in three-pointers made. If he continues on his current pace, he will end upthe USC all-time leader in games played and in the top 10 in points scored andthree-pointers made.

Lewis hopes that when his college career is done that there will be one moretransition for him to make -- that of a player moving on to the next level topursue his dream of playing in the NBA.

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