Where are they now: Tyrone Lewis
blog by Spencer Trotman • March 05, 2013 @ 1:37am
College athletes come and go. Some are remembered for the moment, others leave a lasting impression.
Tyrone Lewis left a lasting impression. The Levittown, Pa. native was a dominant basketball player at Niagara University from 2006 to 2010. Lewis, now 25, is remembered among the Purple Eagles’ greats, along with the likes of Calvin Murphy, who starred for the school in the late 1960s. Lewis left Monteagle Ridge as the all-time leader in steals and three-point field goals made. He’s the only player in school history to achieve 1,500 points, connect on 200 three-pointers and commit 200 steals along with 500 rebounds.
After graduation, Lewis followed an interesting path: he had a tryout for the National Football League, worked for a Fortune 500 company, played pro basketball overseas and now is a college basketball coach.
Directly after his stellar college basketball career ended (he scored 20 points in a loss against Fairfield in his final game), Lewis got a call to try out for five NFL teams. “I kind of blew it off at first,” he said. “I didn’t know how serious it was.” He had not played football since 2005, when he played cornerback, wide receiver and returned kicks for Harry.S Truman High School in Levittown.
While in high school, Lewis turned down offers to play football at major schools such as Wisconsin and Penn State. Four years after breaking records and wowing crowds at Niagara, he got a call from Eliot Wolf to tryout for the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. Even though the tryout did not get him on a NFL roster, he didn’t lose sight in pursing a pro basketball career overseas.
Although professional sports teams overseas value United States talent highly, American players usually sign short-term contracts that last for the length of the season. Unlike NBA contracts, in overseas ball teams can release a player at any time during the year. “It’s strictly business—if you’re not doing what they expect of you, they will replace you at any time.” Lewis explained. “I don’t even know why they have contracts over there, honestly.”
After his first stint in Israel, Lewis went on to practice with Maccabi Be’er Ya’akov, a team in the Israel National League before an injury. Then he ended his career with a German pro team, the Itzehoe Eagles, where he scored 26 points per game in in 22 games.
“My first time in Israel, I scored 25 and 32 in the first two games, probably playing the best ball of my life there,” he said. “Right after the first two games, they said ‘we’re going to let you go.’ They didn’t give me a reason or nothing.”
Immediately, other teams around Israel picked up the phone and wanted Lewis to play for them.
A professional team in the Israel National League was so impressed with his talent that they gave him a contract for the year. After a month and a half of practices, he tore his ACL the day he was supposed to sign on the dotted line. “It was a season-ending injury, same exact way as Derrick Rose when he got hurt,” Lewis said. “So I felt his pain.”
He came back home to the United States to rehabilitate his ACL in order to make another attempt overseas.
“I worked out in Georgia for the summer once I was healthy,” he said. “And I actually worked out with the Atlanta Falcons at LA Fitness during the NFL lockout. I don’t know what it is about football players liking basketball but they loved playing—they were there every day. They play physical, so I knew I was physically ready for Europe again after that.”
After fully recovering, Lewis did another stint in Europe. The 5’11 point guard played for a team in Germany’s Pro A League. “The competition wasn’t that good. It was like I was playing against high schoolers,” Lewis laughed. “Overseas basketball to me, it’s actually the same as drug dealing—long nights, and days working hard. The hours you put in don’t really add up to the money you make.”
“It’s a cutthroat business. I felt like I always had to look over my shoulder.”
Based on personal issues and growing weary of the business of pro ball in Europe, Lewis decided to come back home for good. He holds a degree in sociology from Niagara and landed a job at a Fortune 500 company in Boston. While working at that job, he received a call to become an assistant basketball coach at Widener University.
The coaching staff at Widener called Lewis and asked when he was available for a meeting. Lewis told them he would be there the next day.
“I drove all the way from Boston to Philly,” he recalled. “So the next morning, they hired me.”
Coaching is Lewis’s new craft to master.
“I love coaching here, man. I get to work with the kids and soak up everything they say,” he said. “The advantage of being a young coach is you relate a little bit more. I want to be remembered as a guy that played for the team and was approachable off court. That’s what I try to tell my players—play for the name in front of the jersey and not the back.”
So what’s next for the former Purple Eagle great? Hopefully, a call from his alma mater.
“The ultimate goal is to get a call from Joe Mihalich and get a coaching job at Niagara,” Lewis concluded. “That would be my dream job.”