With the 2020-21 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, which means today we move on to the freshman from Baltimore........
Freshman - #2 - Forward - 6’7” - 245 lbs. - Baltimore, Maryland
Justin Lewis Traditional Stats
Justin Lewis Fancy Stats
*** — notes a top 500 national ranking per KenPom.com
We start with the idea that Lewis is most likely going to start the year coming off the bench. His most likely playing opportunities are at the 4 and at the 5 in the lineup, and those two primary roles appear to be occupied by Dawson Garcia and Theo John respectively. That’s fine! Both guys are going to need rest at some point during games, and that provides more than enough playing time for Lewis. The only catch is that he might need to be interchangeable on defense between the two spots instead of relying on the taller Garcia to slide down to the 5 when John takes a breather. If Garcia’s talents are best used as “not the rim protector” on defense, then that job may just have to fall to Lewis instead. That may not be as much of a problem as you think it might for a 6’7” guy, but we’ll circle back to this in a minute.
If you want to talk about stat potential for Lewis, then I don’t necessarily disagree with T-Rank’s outlook. With 32% of minutes played, Lewis projects to 4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. 32% of minutes figures out to about 13 minutes per game, and I think that’s wildly dependent on forces outside Lewis’ control. As you can guess from the previous paragraph, I’m figuring Lewis’ minutes will be very heavily dependent on Theo John’s minutes this season. If the senior big man is going to be limited to 20-25 minutes per game as he has been the past two seasons, then there’s an awful lot more minutes for Lewis to gather up. If Lewis is trending more towards 15-20 minutes a game while he covers for both Garcia and John, I’d figure something more like seven points and four rebounds is much more likely. Quite honestly, I’m not particularly concerned about Lewis’ statistical contributions, especially in the scoring department. Whatever Marquette gets from him there is great.
Why You Should Get Excited
Okay, so I said we would circle back to why we shouldn’t be worried about Lewis playing the 5 along with Garcia at the 4 when John is on the bench. Here’s why.
That, of course, is a tweet from Todd Smith, Marquette’s Director of Sports Performance and head strength and conditioning coach for both men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse. God bless freshman walk-on Luke Fizulich for participating in this wingspan measurement exercise, but we’re going to focus on the three freshmen here. I’m going to pull the three pictures out so you can see them in detail easier.
Here’s Dawson Garcia:
The general estimation on wingspan is that your arms reach out to the side about as much of a distance as you are tall. Garcia is 6’11”, and it looks like his wingspan is roughly 6’9”, 6’10”. Cool, fine, moving on. Here’s Oso Ighodaro:
Ighodaro is listed at 6’9”, and it looks like he’s coming in at about 6’10”, maybe 6’11” in wingspan. Sure, whatever, a little bit over, law of averages with Garcia a little bit under. And now, Justin Lewis:
f you’re like me, your first reaction at seeing this picture is “well, dammit, the 7-foot marker isn’t even visible so now I have no reference point as to how close to 7 feet he is.” Look a second time, particularly at the first fully visible number you can see. The 87 is obviously visible, while the 86 is only shaded by Lewis’ fingertips. Now go back and look at Ighodaro and Garcia. Go find the 86. I’ll wait.
Yeah, that’s right, 6’7” Justin Lewis has a 7’2” wingspan.
You know what’s really helpful when it comes to being a maybe slightly shorter than you’d prefer guy assigned to protecting the rim? A GIGANTIC WINGSPAN, which, obviously, Lewis definitely has. I’m not worried about him being asked to defend in the post, how about you?
By the way, this wingspan probably helps explain why Lewis is tied with John as the heaviest guy on the team but doesn’t look like it. The dude is carrying around seven unexpected inches worth of arm. That tends to add weight that doesn’t make itself obviously apparent when you look at a guy.
At this point, the possible problem should be obvious to you. While I have every confidence in Lewis being able to accomplish things on the court from a physical perspective, the question as to whether he can actually pull it off remains unanswered until we see him in action. John is the only returning big on the roster for Marquette this season, so the job of backing him up falls to the three freshman power forwards on the roster. We’re not particularly worried about John’s defense, but MU’s team defense has had major flaws over the past few seasons. Getting stops has to be a priority for this team this season, and that means relying on a guy like Lewis to get that done when John is on the bench. If Lewis can’t be that guy, then he’s not going to be playing. Even worse: What happens when John can’t stay on the floor and the Golden Eagles need to cover 20 minutes a game again and they can’t rely on Lewis to occupy some of those minutes because of his defensive shortcomings?
Let’s just get it out of the way to start with, shall we?
No matter what happens between now and whenever Justin Lewis is done playing for Marquette, he is always going to be remembered for snaring that rebound and dropping in that putback to beat the #4 ranked team in the country in just his fourth collegiate game ever. As neat as that is, I think we have to pay special attention to the fact that it wasn’t just a freak chance play for Lewis in that game. He was GREAT for all 26 minutes that he played, finishing with a game high 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting including 2-for-3 behind the arc, eight rebounds, and two blocks. We really have to remember that part of the story as time goes on. It’s important to note that the best player in the game made the best play at the best possible time, especially when it was the fourth game of his career.
As for the rest of Lewis’ season, we have to acknowledge the fact that the way it looks at the end isn’t quite 100% the way it was looking like it was going to end, say, midway through January. Right before MU’s final game of January, Lewis suffered an ankle injury. He missed two games, played seven minutes in the next one but looked absolutely horribly hobbled to the point where everyone on God’s green earth wondered what the hell was wrong with Steve Wojciechowski for running Lewis out there on his injured leg, and then Lewis missed the next four games after that before getting back out on the floor for MU’s final four games of the year. That included his first collegiate start on March 2nd, as Theo John sat that game out due to illness.
Up until his injury, here’s what Lewis was giving Marquette every night:
8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, nearly an assist, just short of a block, 22.3 minutes played.
In the closing run of the season:
6.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 18.5 minutes played.
The point of the story is that if you looked at Lewis’ Traditional Stats up at the top of the page and said, “man, I felt like I remembered him being better than that,” well, you were right. We’re talking about the difference between 16 games of Healthy Justin Lewis and four games of “well, he’s probably okay to play now, I guess” Justin Lewis, not to mention the seven minutes of “why the hell is he out there” Justin Lewis. Those last five games worth of stats are a huge drain on Lewis’ averages for the season, and his shooting percentages were affected, too.
Still, even with the injury limitations, and even with his time on the court cut down by his injury in the first place, Lewis still made a pretty notable impact on the team. There’s the obvious visuals that we saw, where Lewis looked right at home on the floor in a college basketball game right from the jump, and he appeared to be comfortable playing with both Theo John and Dawson Garcia with the three men rotating in and out and shifting their positions on the floor as needed by the scenario at the moment.
We can’t ignore his analytical impact, either. Any time you have a top 100 guy in offensive rebounding rate, you’re doing pretty well for yourself. Lewis checks in at #88 in the final rankings on KenPom.com, and his #438 ranking over on the defensive end ain’t too bad, either. The most impressive thing about Lewis for me is the fact that he managed to slip into the top 300 in the country in block rate. I didn’t expect that from the 6’7” Lewis. With that said, Lewis does have the fantastic 7’2” wingspan that we mentioned in his preview. That’s the kind of thing that goes a long way towards helping a guy swat a few shots that offensive players aren’t quite expecting to get swatted. Same thing goes for those offensive rebounds, too, I’d imagine.
I mean, I think it has to be the Wisconsin game, right? Big game, big opponent, big opportunity especially coming off the loss to Oklahoma State earlier in the week, big performance, and the game winning bucket on a tough play. It’s also Lewis’ season high in points, which goes a long way towards making it his best game. He only had two other games with a better offensive rating according to KenPom: a 143 in the opener against Arkansas Pine Bluff as he had 10 points, four rebounds, and an assist in 15 minutes, and then a 144 and MVP honors in MU’s 73-71 road win against St. John’s. Lewis went for 13 points, seven rebounds, an assist, and two blocks in that game. Quality candidates, but the UW game still wins here.
Lewis came off the bench almost exclusively all season as expected, getting his only start when Theo John was otherwise unavailable. I guessed at about seven points and four rebounds for him, based on what T-Rank was projecting before the season, and Lewis cleared that hurdle, even with his injury knocking him down a little bit by the end of the year. He easily held his own on the court, fitting directly into the role that the coaches outlined for him and that we foresaw that he would be best used. Outside of the injury limiting him for the last six weeks of the season, this was a rousing success of a first year of college basketball for Lewis, and quite honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do now that he’s figured out how this whole deal works one level up from high school.
He didn’t come in and become a major star wildly surpassing everyone’s expectations, so I don’t want to go overboard with the grade..... but I will give him an 8, because he was pretty damn good.