“He’d be the last guy to ever look over at you [for a foul call],” Coach Jim Calhoun admires. “You could knock Reggie down, and a play later he’d dunk on you. That’s how he answered any questions.”
Before long, Lewis was a local sensation. And over the next four years, by posting cumulative averages of 22.2 ppg and 7.9 rpg, he would play his way into the first round—where he was taken 22nd overall by the Boston Celtics—of the ’87 NBA Draft. Before all that though, before earning immediate respect on campus, before wetting so many of his mid-range “Praying Mantis” jumpers (Calhoun’s term for his awkward but unstoppable release) in games, a freshman Lewis would make a major point in a nearly empty gym.
As Calhoun, now a legend but then an upstart, remembers, it was late in the evening when he went back to campus for a long-forgotten reason. What he saw once there, though, is as clear in his mind now as it was nearly 30 years ago. Coach had walked in on LaFleur and Lewis—fast friends, who bonded over weekly Sunday sessions filled with cheap karate flicks taken in at the Combat Zone—sweating up a full-court one-on-one. Calhoun watched, mesmerized for a time, until he decided that his players would have stayed all night if he didn’t kick them out.
“I didn’t see many kids ever play one-one-one full court in my 40 years of coaching,” says Calhoun. “You just didn’t see two guys work to that extent with that joy.”