- David Auguste, ESPN NFL
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Entertaining Division I offers has become old hat for members of the Milton basketball team.
The nation’s premier coaches as well as legions of evaluators have flocked to the Alpharetta, Ga., school in recent years to catch a glimpse of coach David Boyd’s wealth of talented ballers. The veteran skipper has watched as seven members from the past two season's starting lineups signed with major D-I programs.
The Eagles’ latest prospect could very well be the team’s most intriguing to date. Not because the volume of interest in him, but because he hasn’t even donned a Milton jersey yet. In fact, he’s only 14 years old and still taking eighth grade courses at Milton feeder school Northwestern.
Chris Lewis, an athletic 6-foot-7 double-double machine, received a pair of offers from New Mexico and Memphis earlier this month. And as his game continues to evolve, you can count on several more schools joining in the running for services.
“I was really surprised when I heard of the offers. My coach told my dad and my dad told me,” says Lewis. “It took me a while to take it all in, but I’m just trying to stay humble and work hard.”
The significance of an early offer and a program showing continued interest throughout a player's prep career shouldn’t be discounted. Current Milton seniors Evan Nolte (Virginia) and Shaq Johnson (Auburn) were both offered early in their careers and rewarded those schools when it came time to sign.
Lewis isn’t the only middle school hoop star college coaches have set their sights on. Eron Gordon, who is expected to attend North Central (Indianapolis) next year and is the younger brother of NBA star Eric Gordon, is another hot name. He already holds an offer from Indiana.
“It shows that (young) players are working hard, too,” says Lewis of the attention. “Yeah, it could have a negative effect, but that depends on how you take it. It should make you work harder and inspire you.”
Lewis has distanced himself from his peers with his non-stop motor and commitment on the defensive end. His penchant for swatting balls into the stands has made him a deterrent to opposing scorers both on and off the ball, and he has also made significant strides on offense with a developing mid-range game and his ability to finish above the rim.
Count Boyd, who sees shades of Dennis Rodman in Lewis' game, among those enamored with the youngster’s potential.
“He’s the first player in our program’s history to receive a scholarship this early,” Boyd said. “I was sort of surprised, but at the same time when you look at Chris, he’s been playing at a high level for the last three years. He’s always played up (in competition) and scrimmaged our varsity last year.”
Considering Lewis’ rich bloodlines, it was only a matter of time before the major programs came knocking.
His older brother Mo IV, a sophomore, was the sixth man on Milton’s Class AAAAA championship squad this past winter and his mother, Christalyn, also claimed a state title playing for Baldwin County in the late '80s. His father, Mo Lewis, starred in the NFL for 13 seasons, making three Pro Bowls during his tenure as a hard-hitting linebacker.
“He’s just doing what he’s supposed to do; going out and playing hard and the coaches are looking at his potential,” Mo said. “I tell him, ‘there’s no way they can sign you now and it doesn’t solidify where you will go. You still have four years of high school to play.’”
Not to mention an incredibly difficult summer working out with a personal trainer and hooping with the Georgia Stars 15U AAU team. Earning significant minutes with four-time state finalist Milton isn’t necessarily a given, either.
Last year’s squad captured the program’s second title in four years and finished No. 7 in the POWERADE FAB 50. And even though the cupboard was stripped with Nolte, Johnson and Charles Mann (Georgia) departing for the next level, freshmen rarely get the opportunity to start for this talent-rich squad.
“We hope he can play at a high level for us,” Boyd said. “If he gets to be as solid as his older brother, he’ll be scary.”
As good as he is on the court, Lewis might be even better in the classroom. He is a straight-A student with a fascination with robotics and hopes of being an engineer, leading Mo to affectionately label him “a nerd.”
“It’s fascinating that he is also such an excellent student,” Boyd said. “He has Duke, UNC and Harvard as his top three schools. That just tells you all you need to know about him.”