Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 25 Player Countdown. Each day, we publish a new article counting down the 25 best players in the Atlantic 10 this past season. Today, we continue our countdown with #9 JeQuan Lewis.
It’s hard to quantify just how valuable JeQuan Lewis has been to VCU throughout his collegiate tenure. You could look at his scoring numbers, and you’d be impressed. You can see how good of a passer and shooter he’s been throughout his career; those numbers don’t lie. Perhaps his most impressive work came on the defensive end of the floor, and even those numbers don’t do him justice. JeQuan Lewis’ energy is the embodiment of what it means to be a Ram. Playing two seasons under Shaka Smart and two seasons under Will Wade, JeQuan Lewis never failed to give 110% of his effort on every single play. Offense or defense, you can expect JeQuan Lewis is going to make a play. Few players meant more to their programs than Lewis did to VCU this past season.
If you’re going to go out, you might as well go out with a bang. That’s what JeQuan Lewis did in VCU’s final game of the 2016-17 season. The senior went for 30 points in an 85-77 loss to Saint Mary’s in the First Round. VCU’s star showed up to play when it mattered most, and that’s what he’s been doing throughout his career. Lewis went for 27 points in a home game against Davidson. How did he follow that up? Lewis dropped a career-high 34 points on Saint Joseph’s, hitting 9 three pointers in the process. He wasn’t finished either. JeQuan Lewis’ 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists would help the Rams take down Richmond in the Robins Center right afterwards.
JeQuan Lewis has always been known for putting up career numbers when it matters most. That was definitely the case in a number of big games this season. George Mason was riding a 9 game winning streak into conference play before the senior shut the Patriots down in Fairfax. He was unstoppable with 26 points and 5 steals. Also, if you want to talk about big performances, JeQuan Lewis helped VCU beat some really good mid-major programs in the Siegel Center. We’re talking solid NCAA Tournament teams. Lewis’ 23 points and 12 assists were key in coming back and beating Princeton, a team that would lose by 2 to Notre Dame in the First Round of this year’s Big Dance. Also, JeQuan Lewis had 20 big points in a gritty win over Middle Tennessee, a team that would go on to “upset” Minnesota in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
There are definitely some interesting stats regarding JeQuan Lewis’ senior season. For one, Lewis improved his 2 point field goal percentage to 53.8% in conference play. This ranked 23rd in the league, which is exceptional for a guard, and he was just 46.2% in the same category last season. While he shot better from 2 point range, his 33.6% three point percentage was a significant drop from the previous season (47.4%). Lewis did take a lot more threes this past season after the departure of Melvin Johnson, but his percentages did suffer.
Defensively, JeQuan Lewis was one of the best in the league once again. His 2.8% steal percentage ranked 10th in the Atlantic 10. There was a point in the season where Lewis had 17 steals in 3 games. Another important stat to look at it fouls committed per 40 minutes. Lewis committed just 3.2 fouls per 40 minutes compared to 4.0 the previous season, which is a big improvement in on-ball defense. Lewis was pesky as can be, and he never failed to come up with some clutch steals on the defensive end of the floor.
JeQuan Lewis had everything VCU could ask for in a leader. He took this team to new heights, and even though many doubted the Rams heading into the season, he helped them make their 7th consecutive NCAA Tournament. JeQuan Lewis never fails to play with grit and toughness, and that’s a quality that’s going to take him a long way in basketball. Few players possess the kind of natural talent that JeQuan Lewis has, and VCU has to be thrilled with the contributions he provided throughout the past 4 seasons.