The Richmond Register

Sports

April 5, 2014

OVC BASKETBALL: Lewis wows national audience, claims dunk championship

RICHMOND — Colonels fans have come to expect spectacular slam dunks from senior Marcus Lewis every time he steps foot on the basketball court — and he usually delivers.

His high-flying acrobatic throw downs were featured on the ESPN Top-10 plays of the night several times during his career.

So it wasn’t a surprise to Colonel fans when he was selected as a Darkhorse Dunker entry in the Denny’s Slam Dunk Championships, held during the Final Four weekend.

And Lewis made the Colonel Nation proud Thursday wowing a large crowd gathered at Moody Coliseum at Southern Methodist University and a national television audience tuned in on ESPN with his full arsenal of spectacular dunks.

Lewis defeated Baylor’s Cory Jefferson in the final round — leaping over a man standing in the lane and slamming down a thunderous windmill dunk — to claim the title.

“It was really fun,” Lewis said. “I was nervous going in, but the more I won and the more I got through the rounds, the more fun it was.”

He didn’t pull out any new dunks just for the competition, Lewis said, but instead used ones he was comfortable with, that he had done many times before.

Lewis’ biggest fans, his teammates, were gathered together watching the competition in Richmond and Tarius Johnson said they really enjoyed seeing their friend doing so well and having so much fun.

“It was ridiculous. We knew what he could do and all the tricks he’s got, so seeing it on TV was great,” Johnson said. “We didn’t see any new dunks. I think he might have gotten a little bit higher on them with his adrenaline pumping though.”

Johnson said he was glad the rest of the country got to see just a little bit of what they were treated to all the time.

“We knew he had it, but it was great to see other people getting to see what we see every day. It was amazing watching him and we’re happy that he got the win.”

As much fun as the players had watching Lewis put on his show, Johnson said, it was even more fun seeing a big smile on the face of the usually stoic Lewis.

“He was actually smiling,” Johnson said. “That shocked me more than any of the dunks. That was good to see and to see him having so much fun and doing so good. It was amazing.”

Lewis said he was aware how many of his friends were watching because they let him know during the competition.

“They all had their phones out and were on twitter and texting and calling me during the competition. It was crazy,” Lewis said. “It was great to be able to do it for those guys and it was a great way for me to end my senior year.”

Lewis made an impression on some of the national media as well.

Joseph Zucker, columnist for Bleacher Report, said Lewis might have been an unknown going into the competition but afterward his name was now on the radar of many college basketball fans.

He also said the contest was much better than its counterpart held during the NBA All-Star weekend.

“The competition provided more excitement than the NBA dunk contest in February,” Zucker said. “Fans who decided to tune in got more than their moneys worth with the performance of Lewis.”

Other competitors in the competition were Mike Craig — Southern Mississippi, Cleanthony Early — Wichita State, Chase Fieler — Florida Gulf Coast, Walt Lemon Jr. — Bradley, Adreian Payne — Michigan State and Ronald Roberts Jr. — Saint Joseph’s.

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