LEWIS PLAYING INTEGRAL ROLE FOR USA PAN AM TEAM

USA Pan American head coach Nate Tibbetts believes that every successful team must include players that work hard and play for each other. Every player must understand and accept his role in order for the team to be successful.

Tibbetts describes Marcus Lewis as one of those ‘glue’ guys on this year’s USA Pan American roster. He often helps hold the team together and leads by example. He understands the coaching staff’s expectations and accepts a role not all players seek out.

“He is a worker,” Tibbetts said. “He puts his hard hat on every time he hits the floor. He is the epitome of a team player. Guys on the team respect him because of what he does. He does a lot of things that guys don’t like to do.”

It’s a role Lewis enjoys playing, both for this year’s USA Team and for the Tulsa 66ers the past two seasons, also led by Tibbetts.

“Every day I try to hustle and be a hard worker,” Lewis said. “I like to be a defensive specialist and focus on rebounding. We have a lot of great scorers, so I can be an inside presence and kick it out to my teammates. I want to be an overall team player.”

Tibbetts explained that Lewis’ knowledge of the game is an asset for the USA Team.

“He covers up a lot of mistakes defensively,” the USA head coach said. “Offensively, it is not just about putting it in the basket for him. It is about setting the screen or diving to the rim. The little things that help you win basketball games.”

A little over a year ago, Lewis played his first season in Tulsa for the 66ers. Following his rookie year, the forward dropped considerable weight in order to keep up with the pace of the D-League.

“I had to work very hard and lose a lot of weight in order to be effective for my team,” Lewis said. “I worked out extra hard to lose the weight, worked out two or three times a day. Different workouts, different agility drills. Just mainly eating right and not abusing the fried foods anymore.”

Tibbetts quickly noticed the change in Lewis’ game and says he is still getting comfortable with his new shape.

“Last season with the 66ers, I think he was trying to figure it out. He can really move his feet as good as any big here. The way he is moving up and down the court and can guard the pick-and-roll is big for us. I am proud of how hard he has worked and you can see the improvement from the countless hours he puts in.”

Lewis is enjoying training camp with the USA team this week and believes it has what it takes to be successful later this month in Mexico.

“Everybody does something very well,” Lewis said. “It is a lot harder because usually in the D-League there are some players that their strength isn’t shooting so you can sag off of them on defense. But everyone on this USA Team was the best player on their teams last year.”

The Oral Roberts graduate noted that even though there is a lot of offensive talent on this team, it will be the execution and energy on the other end of the floor that will make the difference.

“We have to play good defense if we want to play for a gold medal,” Lewis said. “We have to get out to the shooters. We have to make opponents feel uncomfortable. We have great players, so I feel if we are consistent that we can become a great defensive team.”

His focus on the defensive end and the high intensity he brings each day to practice is a direct reflection of the USA Staff. He understands he must be a leader on the team since he knows the expectations and demands of the staff.

“I know I can’t take any days off during this training camp because I am an example for everybody that is around me,” Lewis said. “I know that every day I have to go 110 percent and be a leader on the floor and help guys get better.”

Tibbetts said he will never under-appreciate Lewis and understands the vital role he plays for the team.

“He leads with his effort and doing things right,” Tibbetts said. “He knows what we are about. He has really learned how to be a professional.”