Razorbacks Report:

Lewis, 17, impresses vs. SEC

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2019
Alabama guard Kira Lewis Jr. plays against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Alabama guard Kira Lewis Jr. plays against Vanderbilt in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

FAYETTEVILLE -- A 17-year-old will lead Alabama into Walton Arena tonight to face the University of Arkansas basketball team.

Crimson Tide freshman guard Kira Lewis, who won't turn 18 until April 6, is averaging team highs of 14.0 points and 2.9 assists in 31.8 minutes while starting all 30 games.

"He's overachieved for somebody 17 years old," Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. "He's playing a lot of minutes for us and he's had some big games. He's improved in terms of his stamina throughout the year.

"We just think the future is awfully bright for him. He's a good kid, very coachable. He works extremely hard."

Lewis, a five-star recruit from Meridianville, Ala., graduated from Hazel Green High School a year early and enrolled at Alabama in August.

"To think he's a 17-year-old baby and he's performing the way he is in this league is unbelievable," South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said. "He's a special player."

Lewis had 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 37 minutes in the Tide's 68-62 victory at South Carolina.

"He's young and statistically, I guess, he's a little up and down," Martin said. "But when he's on like he was against us, it makes a huge, huge difference to them. He was a handful for us to defend."

Lewis is shooting 36.8 percent on three-pointers (50 of 136), and Johnson said he also does a good job of penetrating to create shots for himself or teammates.

"He's fast," Johnson said. "This kid, I mean, a couple of strides and he's up and down the floor."

Last home game

Dave England, in his 36th season as Arkansas' basketball trainer, will be on the team bench for the final time in Walton Arena tonight. He's shifting to an administrative job in the athletic department after this season.

"No one's been a trainer in this building for a game other than Dave England," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said, referring to Walton Arena being built 25 years ago. "That tells you the longevity.

"He's so important in all the success we've had, because he's the guy who has the ear of [the players]. It's amazing, the trainer gets to know these guys in an intimate way.

"The beauty of it is Dave being a part of our team and our staff, he helps to balance it with our kids. It may be they have emotional stuff going on that has nothing to do with basketball. Dave sometimes is that friend you need away from basketball.

"When you talk about injuries that we've had, guys have come back stronger and better. A lot of that is attributed to Dave England."

Heating up

Arkansas is shooting 53.6 percent on three-pointers (30 of 56) in the past three games after struggling at 24.5 percent (27 of 110) the previous five games.

"I think we got better ball movement now," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson. "Shooting sometimes is contagious. I thought the other night it got contagious."

The Razorbacks hit 11 of 18 three-pointers at Vanderbilt on Wednesday night for a season-high 61.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman guard Isaiah Joe hit 4 of 6 three-pointer and now holds the Arkansas season record with 104, but Desi Sills (3 of 3) and Mason Jones (3 of 6) also were hot from three-point range against the Commodores.

"Evidently, we're starting to understand our personnel and we're spacing the floor and continuing to utilize Dan [Gafford] and be up tempo," Anderson said. "I think you see us playing in a much better rhythm now. Shooting is rhythm, so we're making shots now."

Sills, a freshman guard, is 7 of 10 on three-pointers in the past three games.

"He's done well," Anderson said. "He's really improved throughout the year."

Three in row?

After enduring a six-game losing streak, the Razorbacks will try to win a third consecutive game when they face Alabama. They beat Ole Miss 74-73 last Saturday and won 84-48 at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.

"I'm seeing more of what I've been thinking we were going to see probably earlier," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I'm seeing more balance with guys starting off, and then I'm seeing some balance coming from the bench.

"We're getting plus minutes from our bench, and that's big. Because now we can rest guys, and they can come in and they can finish the game out.

"So I think we've created some more depth. Guys are understanding their roles a little bit better. We've just got to continue to play basketball. If we could bottle up what we [at Vanderbilt], we certainly will be playing some of our best basketball."

Sports on 03/09/2019

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