Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Lewis' ready to play his role for Gators

American import John Lee Lewis Jr is prepared to do his bit for Shepparton Gators and help take them to the next level.

DAMEN FRANCIS April 3, 2014 4:10am

It’s a long way from Louisiana to Shepparton, but John Lee Lewis Jr is hoping to take his game to another level with the Gators.

John Lee Lewis Jr’s head may be in the clouds, but his feet are placed firmly on the ground.

While the 203cm former Louisiana Tech University centre arrives at Big V club Shepparton Gators not long out of the esteemed American college basketball system, ‘‘JL’’ is not averse to earning his time on the court.

Lewis, 22, played in 95 games in three seasons at the NCAA division one outfit, before finishing up at the end of season 2012-13.

However, he started in just one game in his senior year on a roster that included the likes of highly-regarded guards Raheem Appleby and Kenyon McNeail.

His idol is Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, not because of his talent, but his work ethic.

‘‘(At LTU) we had a lot of good scorers and guys that will go on and play at a higher level than I will,’’ Lewis said.

‘‘I was really an energy guy and a role player. You just have to do anything you can to get minutes on the floor.

‘‘It all depends on the style of play and how you fit into certain teams, but you see guys go overseas and blow up and I’m hoping to be one of those guys.’’

Shepparton is a long way from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Lewis was born and raised.

Lewis came to Australia last year as part of a Eurobasket Summer League tour, which pitted the visiting team against various SEABL and Big V teams to showcase the players’ talent.

The tour ended in Albury, where he caught the eye of coaching staff at Albury-Wodonga Bandits and it was only as a victim of circumstance he ended up in Shepparton.

‘‘They wanted me to stick around until their import got here, I think he was having a few problems with his visa,’’ Lewis said.

‘‘I only trained with them for a day before he showed up. After that I made some phone calls and ended up getting in touch with (Greater Shepparton Basketball Administrator) Tony (Long).

‘‘Of all the teams that showed an interest, Shepparton seemed like the one that wanted me most.’’

Lewis hardly set the world alight on his Gators debut at the weekend, but the production — 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals — was respectable and is almost certain to improve.

It was his first game since the end of the tour nearly a month ago.

At more than 100kg, Lewis is big enough to dominate the paint and athletic enough to stretch the floor.

Lewis sees few differences between the level he was playing in the US and that played in Victoria, including the gap between SEABL and Big V.

While happy to do his bit for the team, he is aware his size, experience and skill set mean people are looking at him as the player that could take the Gators to the next level.

‘‘Back home a lot of guys go and play overseas and they tell me the same thing, that there is an expectation that you bring things to the team, so I had that in mind when I came over here,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m here to fit into the puzzle and I’ll play whatever spot (Gators coach) Russ (Parker) puts me in.

‘‘I’m playing with a group that plays really hard and everyone is eager to jump up a level and that’s my aim as well.’’

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