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The genius of Knight: From 31 points per game to all-time assist leader

Today is the 82nd birthday of legendary former IU basketball coach Bob Knight.

Knight’s last game at Indiana was also the last game for guard Michael Lewis, who finished his career in Bloomington with 545 assists, then a program record.

But Lewis arrived as the state’s high school scoring leader in 1996.  The Jasper H.S. product averaged 31.5 points per game as a senior.  He finished his high school career in 13th place on Indiana’s all-time high school scoring list with 2,138 career points.

In Lewis’ mind, he arrived at IU later in 1996 as a scorer.  But almost immediately during his freshman year, Knight had other ideas.

Now the head coach at Ball State, Lewis recalled the story on a Ball State podcast earlier this month.

“So I scored a lot of points and that’s kind of, you know, when you’re 17, 18 years old, that’s kind of how I define myself as a player,” Lewis said.

“And so I go to Indiana and we’re in our first or second practice and coach Knight calls me over and puts his arm around me.  And he’s like, ‘Mike, you want to play a lot or you want to play a little?’

“You know, and I’m a freshman. So you know, ‘coach, I want to play a lot.’  And he says, ‘well, quit shooting the effing ball.’

“And so I look at that now as like, from a coaching standpoint, like if I said that now our guys would be in the transfer portal you know in heartbeat, like, you know, a coach has taken my game, this and that.

“But he went ahead and continued on like, ‘hey you know, Andrae Patterson, I think can really score, you know, Neil Reed’ was there at the time, ‘you know he’s got the ability to score.’ And then a recruit who came in with me named A.J. Guyton. He’s like, ‘I think AJ’s going to have a chance to be a really good player. And he’s got the ability to score.’

“He said, ‘what I don’t have is, I don’t have a leader on this team. So if you can be one of the toughest guy on the court every night, you can get us into offense, you know, be a leader, be my voice on the court and in the locker room, he goes, you’ll play as much as you want for four years.

“‘Now, if you want to shoot the ball, you can sit next to me.’

“And so you know, then, you know, that’s probably what I’m proud of the most as a player. I have a pretty true understanding of who I was as a player. I wasn’t those guys, I wasn’t an NBA player. I wasn’t a pro. But I could carve out a role to help our team win in Indiana.

“And I think, you know, Coach, one of his things that made him who he was, was he saw things and was able to get things out of people that they may not have seen in themselves as they entered college.

“So he saw, something in me from a leadership standpoint and my ability to connect guys on the team and be a leader that maybe as I entered Indiana, I didn’t know I could do. I just, I define myself as a player, as a guy that shot the ball and scored points and — he saw something much different.”

Lewis finished his IU career with just 887 points, or seven per game — barely more than the 852 he scored as a senior at Jasper.

But in the final game of his career, despite only starting 66 games and playing just 25 minutes per contest, he passed program legend Quinn Buckner’s assist record to become the all-time leader at IU.

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