Lewis likes Pastner, Memphis Tigers

Lewis

Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) junior guard Isaiah Lewis' interest in the University of Memphis started with, simply enough, a phone call with Memphis coach Josh Pastner.

Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) junior guard Isaiah Lewis' interest in the University of Memphis started with, simply enough, a phone call with Memphis coach Josh Pastner.

It came during the first contact period of the year, Lewis said, and Pastner's line of questioning was different.

"He asked me, ‘If you were to come here, would you look at recruiting any other players?' My first thought was (Atlanta junior forward) Brannen Greene," Lewis said Sunday.

And so that was that. Lewis said Memphis assistant coach Jack Murphy followed him around the entire Reebok Breakout Challenge this past July.

"I just saw the big blue Memphis shirt everywhere I was at," Lewis said.

Lewis said he appreciates the Tigers' coaching staff aggressive and unorthodox approach. And although Pastner has only been at the helm of a program for two full seasons, Lewis said the 34-year-old head coach has done wonders sustaining the Tigers' high-major status.

"The tradition is there," Lewis said. "Pastner didn't coach Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans, but he was (Kentucky and former Memphis coach John) Calipari's assistant. He's been around and taught them tricks and trades. He's got experience.

"With guys like Will Barton and Joe Jackson, he's helping them put on a show. I think he hasn't skipped a beat. That's what I like about him."

The interest is very much mutual. Lewis is rated a 4-star guard and the No. 78 player in the country by Scout, and Memphis finds itself on a long list that also includes Kansas, Louisville, Georgia Tech, USC, Miami, Florida State and North Carolina.

Lewis, who was born and raised in New York, said he wants to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and see what other parts of the country have to offer.

" I'd rather be away and clear my mind," Lewis said. "Nothing against the New York schools like St. John‘s or Syracuse, but just seeing the same thing over and over, it's just tiring. I want to go somewhere else and meet new people. I've done it on the AAU circuit before, of course, but I want to do that for good."

Lewis said he spoke with Pastner on Saturday and said he and his family are in the process of setting up an unofficial visit to Memphis.

"Now that my season and school is starting up, we have to find a time without not missing practice or school," Lewis said. "We're just figuring out the right time."

If Lewis ultimately were to choose Memphis, he would be one of the first prospects from New York to descend upon the U of M — at least in recent history. Since Scout began ranking recruits in 2002, no player from the Empire State has committed to the Tigers.

While Calipari created a pipeline to the Northeast during his time at Memphis, most of his recruits from the area hailed from New Jersey.

Regardless, Lewis is well-versed on what Memphis is all about: its college basketball team, and that‘s a cause the junior can buy into.

"The fan base is crazy," Lewis said. "They're real passionate about their basketball and their tradition. I know the academics is real strict and a big deal. I don't think the city is that bad, either. Now that they got (assistant coach Damon) Stoudamire, he's been a starter in the NBA, I just like Memphis."

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