Since the college season ended, Kira Lewis Jr. has added about 15 pounds to his frame. That added weight, coupled with his 6-foot-7 wing span, should entice teams who need a point guard in the draft.
The Knicks certainly fall into that category. And they’ve already interviewed Lewis Jr. over a Zoom call, so we know they have a degree of interest in the guard from Alabama.
If New York ends up selecting Lewis Jr. in the draft, a coach/trainer from the Big Apple will probably be pretty happy about it.
Corey Underwood, a former Forest Hills HS star who grew up in Queens, has helped coach/train Lewis Jr. for the past three years.
Underwood played in the NBA G League and with the 76ers, so he understands what college players need to thrive at the NBA level.
Scouts see Lewis Jr. as one of the fastest guards in the draft and point to an improved perimeter shot as one of his NBA-ready traits.
Underwood, who has coached/trained dozens of top amateur players, agrees with that assessment. But he also believes Lewis Jr.’s intangibles will also help him thrive in the NBA.
“He loves the game. It’s not a façade, it’s not fake, not just for the look. Kira is very aware that basketball is a major part of his life after God, family, and education,” Underwood says.
After working with him for the past few years, including last offseason in Alabama, Underwood sees Lewis Jr. as a young player who is consumed with improving.
After he missed a free throw late in an Alabama loss last season, Lewis Jr. went back to the court and made 500 free throws.
He studied tape of his opponents Underwood put together regularly during the season, looking for tendencies he could exploit.
That film study will continue at the next level, Underwood says.
“He’s going to dive into film and he’s going to know his opponents like the back of his hand because he’s going to take the time to watch film on his own, on top of what (he’s watching with the team),” Underwood says.
How would Lewis Jr. fit with the Knicks?
Before team president Leon Rose took over, people in the organization felt that the club needed to add a lead guard who can knock down perimeter shots. Whether or not Rose & Co. are still looking to fill that role is unknown, but Lewis Jr. fits the description.
“There’s probably a lot of pressure (in New York) to draft a LaMelo Ball or another popular guard -- but I think he makes a lot of sense, roster-wise,” Underwood said.
The Knicks have talked to dozens of prospects ahead of the draft. So the idea that New York has spoken to Lewis Jr. shouldn’t be seen as a sign that they are definitely going to draft him. But the Knicks, who have the eighth and 27th picks in the first round, haven’t spoken to every point guard projected in the first round. So their call with Lewis Jr. is a sign that they like him.
One interesting note about the 19-year-old: he skipped his senior year of high school, so he’s a rare 19-year-old who has played two seasons of college basketball. You’d expect this to be seen as a positive by NBA teams.
Underwood believes Lewis Jr.’s speed and ability to play at different paces will help him immediately in the NBA.
“He’s so great at … being unpredictable. His speed in transition or delayed transition is going to be huge," he said.
Underwood also notes that Lewis Jr. was a "great, crafty" finisher at the rim with strong footwork in the paint, a strong floater and middle pull-up game.