Aaliyah Lewis is ready to lead the charge for the Red Storm.
The former Bishop Ford star has earned the right to run the St. John’s women’s basketball team’s offense as its starting point guard this season. Lewis, now a sophomore, already has some experience doing so, starting eight times as a freshman while senior Eugeneia McPherson recovered from an injury.
There is no safety net this time around and plenty of talent to orchestrate for a Red Storm team trying to win a Big East title and reach a sixth-straight NCAA tournament. The team, and her coach, are counting on her to deliver.
“Lewis has to be good for us,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “If we are going to win games, she has to be really good.”
For Lewis that means being more aggressive on both ends of the court, making better decisions and using her speed to dictate the pace of the game. Tartamella said he wants defenses to have to try to catch up to her pace, instead of Lewis slowing herself down to theirs.
Imposing her ability on the game goes well beyond that. Defenses sunk off Lewis last season, daring her to shoot at times. She knows that star guards Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant will do the bulk of the perimeter scoring, but she will need to make opposing defenses respect her in order to take pressure off them. That means smartly attacking the basket and making open jumpers.
“The main thing is being more aggressive on the offensive end,” Lewis said. “Coach has been on me about shooting, so I have been getting my jump shot on point.”
She averaged just three points and 2.1 assists last season, but flourished early in the year as a starter. Lewis, who said she also plans on being “feisty on defense,” scored 19 points against Harvard, and dished out six assists in a win over Iona. Her freshman season taught her plenty of lessons about how to run a team at the college level.
“Coming in from high school everyone knew me as a scorer, so then coming in and playing behind Eugeneia. I was learning,” Lewis said. “I’m trying to get the program down, trying to get the system. I think I’ve adjusted well. I’ve become more of a floor leader.”
Being a winner is something Lewis has done throughout her career. In high school she helped lead Ford to its first state Federation Class AA title as a senior. She believes she is ready to be the Red Storm’s floor leader for three years and has a bright future with the program. It is why her coach believes she can handle all she is being asked to do.
“I’ve given her a lot of responsibility,” Tartamella said. “I think she wants it. I think she just has to execute it, and her confidence will only grow over time.”