Entering this season, sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis figured that he would have another year to learn how to be a top-notch point guard in head coach Shaka Smart’s system before he would take over the reins. Senior guard Briante Weber’s injury changed that, and Lewis was forced into the starting role.
While there were many questions about the team’s ability to thrive without the face of Havoc, Lewis has stepped into his new role and performed exceptionally well. What the team lost in defensive pressure and steals Lewis has more than made up for on the offensive end.
Lewis did all he could to bring the Rams to victory against La Salle University on Wednesday, Feb. 11. Lewis scored 15 of the team’s 16 points in the two overtimes, including going 8 for 9 from the line in the two extra sessions. He finished with a career-high 26 points.
That game was a continuation of his impressive play since being thrust into the starting role. In his first start since Weber’s injury against George Mason University on Wednesday, Feb. 4, he had an impressive stat line of 13 points, including 7 for 7 from the foul line while adding four assists.
Against St. Bonaventure University on Saturday, Feb. 7, he once again filled up the box score with 14 points, four steals, six assists and two rebounds.
Since taking over as the starter, he has averaged 17.6 points per game, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals and one turnover per contest.
Lewis adds a different element to the point guard position than what the team had with Weber. Defenses have to respect his three-point shot more so than they did Weber’s. Opponents have to play tighter defense on the 6-foot-1 guard, opening up more space for Lewis to blow by his defender or drive and pass the ball to one of his teammates.
It has been necessary for him to step up his offensive production. Junior guard Melvin Johnson was the logical person after Weber and the team’s leading scorer, senior forward Treveon Graham went down with injuries. While Johnson has been scoring in the double figures, he has not been the same threat that he was earlier in the season. In 13 non-conference games, Johnson scored more than 15 points in seven games. In the 11 Atlantic 10 conference games that followed, Johnson has only topped the 15 point threshold twice.
While Lewis has only led his team to one win since becoming the starter, it’s no fault of his own. Lewis always exhibits a team first attitude, acknowledging that getting wins is the number one goal.
This season, the Dickson, Tennessee native has battled through injuries: getting poked in the eye against JMU and limping off the court with the help of his teammates following the LaSalle game due to cramps.
The point guard of the future has become the point guard of the present and Lewis has embraced the role. The former high school quarterback is used to having others look to him in crunch time with the game on the line. The next step will be to improve his teammates’ performances in order for VCU to get back to their winning ways. There is no doubt that Lewis will leave everything he has on the floor in trying to do so. Lewis’ unexpected increase in playing time has made the future look bright, for the rest of this season and beyond.