Morgan Lewis: The AmeriCanadian Dream
On Point exclusive feature written by Graeme Wallace
Morgan Lewis was born in Painesville, Ohio but that’s not the place he considers home.
After being selected first overall by the Oshawa Power in the inaugural National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) draft in 2011, Lewis lived in Oshawa with a friend for a year before moving to downtown Toronto. It is a place he feels he will be for a long time, if not for the rest of his life. Lewis feels so fond of the city he has a hard time defining what it is about Toronto he loves so much.
“It’s kind of the overall feeling, the vibe and energy of the city, the nightlife, the shopping, the people, the tourist attractions. There’s so much going on in the city on any night. I guess I’m just a big city guy and this is it for me”
Perhaps the best part of Lewis’ time in Toronto is the fact that the feelings he has about the city are reciprocal. “I feel like the city embraced me as much as I embraced it. The amount of love out in this city, there’s no comparison. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world through basketball and through all the cities and all the states and all the countries Toronto is my favourite. I wasn’t born here but this is where I’m gonna live. I picked to live here so I think that says a lot about the city that I could live pretty much anywhere in the world and I want to live in Toronto. I love this place.”
Lewis is grateful for the opportunity set before him when his name was called by the Power(since relocated to Mississauga) three years ago. “ That’s where it all started, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m at or doing things I’m doing without the opportunity that the Power gave me. Speaking of the NBL Canada, it’s a league that’s on the up, it’s growing I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it’s going to be but with that said all the love and respect that I have for that league because I’ve been there three years now.”
If you were fortunate enough to catch some of the 2nd annual M.A.D.E. Pro-Am summer basketball league, it’s very likely that you saw a whole lot of Lewis rattling rims and draining threes and nifty turnaround jumpers, as he was named MVP and led Team On Point to the Championship. He played in last year’s tournament as well but has certainly grown as a player since then and was able to use this year’s tourney to showcase his development.
“Last season I wasn’t known very well. I was trying to fit in last summer. This summer I was on a mission to stand out. I wanted to be one of those household names along with Denham Brown and Jevohn Shepherd and some of those big name guys. I want to be in that conversation. I know I’m not Canadian and I know I’m not from here but I’ve applied for my permanent residency and I’ll probably live here for the rest of my life, so I will be around for awhile. I want people to get used to me and recognize the name and the face and I think this year at the Pro-Am I definitely did that.”
Lewis also played at the OVO Bounce tournament at Ryerson’s Kerr Hall. If you were in attendance for any of the games last year or this year you know how exciting the action has been. “This is probably one of the most electrifying, energetic type of crowds that I’ve played in. Going back to last year in the finals, we played it at the Mattamy Athletic Centre(old Maple Leaf Gardens). There were celebrities in the house, NBA players, all the local legends. If you can go out there and have some good games and make a name for yourself I feel like you earn a little bit of respect.”
Summertime basketball tournaments are interesting because while the games do count, they aren’t as serious as regular season games. It also gives players a chance to work on parts of their game they’ve been practicing on in game situations and the lighter atmosphere allows them to entertain the fans who come out. “That’s what I feel the summertime is about. It’s where you work for the next season, that’s where you get better in the off-season. And you kind of showcase what you’ve worked on in the previous summer in the season. The summertime is the time when I feel like you really give back to the fans and the city”
Lewis has been referred to as one of the best players not currently in the NBA. He is 27 years old and realizes that the clock is ticking on his NBA hoop dreams. Rather than think about what might have been or what could happen in the future, Lewis is embracing the journey that is his basketball life.
“I think everything I’m going through has helped me achieve that dream. There’s not a certain path or avenue that a person is supposed to take to get where they want. You know, one guy might get drafted first round, first pick straight out of University but that’s not everybody’s path. I kind of just appreciate everything I have gone through”
As thankful as he is for the chance he was afforded, Lewis knows that he must do what’s best for him and his future. He also refuses to see making the NBA as defining his success or happiness. “I’m trying to establish myself overseas. I’m still chasing the dream of the NBA but at the same time just as my Instagram name states I feel like I’m living the dream now. I have nothing to complain about. I’m very appreciative, just not satisfied. I’m just hungry, I do want to make it to the NBA and that’s why I try to go out there everyday in the Pro-Am’s and these tournaments and play hard. I’m just going out there trying to make a statement every game.”
Athleticism is something that stands out when watching Lewis play. He does acknowledge, however, that his development as a player has included relying less on pure athleticism and becoming more of a student of the game. “I’m at the point where basketball is getting away from the checkers and turning more into the chess game, I’m getting a little older I still have the athleticism but when you watch me play you can see that I have a good IQ for the game.”
Lewis feels such a part of the city of Toronto and the country of Canada that he wouldn’t rule out playing for Team Canada one day. “Of course, that’s something that runs in the back of my mind all the time. I know it would be a little bit more political than just me playing for them. If I got the paperwork and the documentation official, that’s definitely something on my bucket list. That would be something special”
Talk to Morgan Lewis for a few minutes and you can tell he is an engaging man with a charismatic and kind personality. Watch him play in a game against NBA calibre players and it’s clear he has the ability to play at the highest level. Put simply, Lewis is a pro and a great addition to the beautiful city of Toronto.
Written by Graeme Wallace
Posted by Drew Ebanks
Photos Courtesy of C. Graham @seestanislaw and Reel Motion Photography @reelmotionimage