How Tyrell Lewis got to this point, how far removed he is from his past – he says he thinks about that everyday.
Lewis is humbled by the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges’ West Region MVP award. Same with leading the Pierce College men’s basketball team in almost every statistical category as it enters the NWAACC tournament against Everett Community College at 8 p.m. today at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. He also has his 1-year-old son, Sir, to be thankful for.
Back when doctors told Lewis he could have been paralyzed, even dead, after a gunshot to his back barely missed his spine on Jan. 17, 2009, he didn’t imagine this is where he would be.
“Just from my history and my past, I never thought I’d be going to college,” Lewis said. “I never thought I’d have the chance to be doing something like this.”
It didn’t come quickly, easily or without pain.
Lewis was averaging almost 13 points per game as a sophomore in his second varsity season at Mount Rainier High in 2009.
He helped the Rams to a 10-1 start with a five-point victory against Lindbergh on Jan. 16, scoring eight points.
That was a Friday.
The following day, Lewis was shot from behind.
Lewis didn’t go into detail about the event, other than to say; “I was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
Lewis went from being considered one of the most athletic underclassmen in the state to sitting in a hospital room as doctors worked to save his life.
“The bullet hit me right next to my spine,” Lewis said. “It’s a miracle I survived. The doctors thought I would be paralyzed. I thank God everyday.”
He said the doctors never took the bullet out of him, fearing they could damage his spine in the process. He would miss the rest of the season, but he said basketball never left him.
“When I was in the hospital, they had me on some type of medicine, but they said I kept talking about open gyms,” he said. “They didn’t know what I was saying.
“I was still going to the gym and all the games after it happened. Then, for some reason, about a month or so later, I was in the gym and I was able to jump. Pretty soon after that everything started coming back to me.”
Lewis transferred to Federal Way after the season because he said he didn’t feel safe going back to Mount Rainier.
He helped the Eagles to a third-place finish at the state tournament before transferring to Rainier Beach his senior season.
Lewis then spent last year at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene.
But Lewis didn’t get the playing time he was hoping for his freshman season. Then Sir was born and Lewis determined he needed to move back to Washington to be closer to his son.
So he made yet another transfer – this time to Bill Mendelson’s program at Pierce.
Lewis has fit right in, and, more to his liking, has finally found a place he can be relied on as the go-to option instead of being a solid role player like he had in so many years past.
He has shown he can do just about everything. The 6-foot-3 guard leads the NWAACC in steals (96) and is 10th in scoring (19.8 per game).
Lewis also is 10th in rebounds per game (8.04) and sixth in blocks (29).
“I had never heard of Tyrell Lewis,” Mendelson said. “I didn’t know anything about him until school started. It was just a lucky thing that my assistant coach (Jeff Drinkwine) happened to be talking to the North Idaho coach at the right time and he said Tyrell could be looking to play somewhere else. Now we are reaping all the benefits of having the MVP. I guess it’s just one of those things.”
MVP? This was the same person who thought he might never get to play in another open gym four years ago.
“That just shows you what type of guy he is: One who is going to fight and persevere, a guy who is not going to quit on you,” said freshman guard Devin Matthews. “It’s inspiring. His story just makes you praise God. You got to give all the glory to God on that one because that’s amazing.”
Now Lewis has a chance to cement his name in the Raiders history book if he can help Pierce win its first NWAACC men’s basketball championship.
When asked how much it would mean for him, Lewis was at a loss for words.
“I don’t know if I can even explain that,” Lewis said. “You should hold that question for me for the championship.”