It’s natural to think Bre Lewis has an advantage over just about every opponent she sees. After all, the Kansas State freshman is 6-foot-5 and one of the tallest players in the Big 12.
(Kansas State freshman Bre Lewis puts up a shot against Washburn on Oct. 28 at Bramlage Coliseum).
Sure, the Milwaukee, Wis., native towers over many. But that doesn’t always mean the game comes easier to Lewis. As she’s quickly finding out, a big part of playing basketball at the college level is understanding exactly how to use her size to her advantage. The biggest adjustment has been the physicality of the game.
“Bre has never really been that physical — she could throw some elbows every now and then when she got upset with people — but the pure physicality of having the hips, digging in and having a strong base and being able to secure the ball and handle it with a great amount of force from the chest up has not really been her forte,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said this week.
“She’s learning that — the balance issues, the timing issues and getting more competitive each possession.”
It’s started to show, too. Lewis is coming off back-to-back double-digit games in rebounds — including a career-high 11 against SMU last Thursday and then 10 in the Wildcats’ win over Virginia on Friday. She has three double-figure rebounding games in all, including her 10-board performance in K-State’s season opener against Tennessee State.
For the season, Lewis is averaging 5.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game — including a season-high 12 points in the Wildcats’ loss at UTEP on Nov. 16.
“It’s been some little streaks for her and she definitely hit some skids, but I think the last couple of weeks she’s begun to feel a little more comfortable and physical out there,” Patterson said. “She’s getting more competitive with the speed of the game and the physicality.”
Lewis’ increased comfort level has also been evident defensively, as she ranks second in the Big 12 with 13 blocks through six games, including four in the Wildcats’ opener against Tennessee State. Lewis, who has at least one block in every game this season, is the first freshman under Patterson to register 13 or more blocked shots through her first six games — something even former All-American Nicole Ohlde didn’t accomplish at K-State.
And as good as Lewis has been defensively, Patterson said it has been more of a result of her response to plays, rather than her anticipation of the plays. Once she’s able to anticipate better, the sky is the limit for Patterson’s talented post.
“Defensively, she’s an effective shot blocker right now, but she’s not really anticipating and taking up a lot of space during defensive play as we would like,” Patterson said.
“She’s responsive and a little late, instead of being the initiator. We’re trying to get her to understand the speed and she has to process things, but she’s a willing learner.”
Lewis has only had one real dud of a game so far — against Charlotte when she got into quick foul trouble and finished with two points and four rebounds before fouling out in just 10 minutes.
“It really set her back when she got into early foul trouble against Charlotte,” Patterson said. “That game really messed with her mind and made her tentative and rattled her confidence some. But since the UTEP game, she’s really been coming into her own.”
With so much to learn still, Lewis said she’s been trying to rely on those certain things she does do well right now and build from there.
“The physicality is coming along, but I still have a long way to go,” she said. “I’m starting adjust and figure out my body and how to use it better. Every game is different, so I’m learning a lot — it’s all an adjustment. I’m not at my full potential yet, but I’m working on it.
“I’m finding out things I do well and trying to build on them and work on them to keep getting better. I want to get really good at doing what I do well and use that to my advantage in the rest of my game.”
Part of learning the physicality of the game is simply knowing how and where to hold the ball. As a taller player, Lewis runs the risk of having the ball knocked away or stolen when she holds it too low or tries to dribble in the lane.
“She has started to go get the ball higher and starting to rebound higher — beginning to keep the ball higher in every sense,” Patterson said. “She’s beginning to post up lower and with a bigger and wider base. She’s getting those mixed messages — one minute you want her low and wide and the next minute you want her big and vertical.
“You have to know to use that size to your advantage.”
Lewis will look for her third straight game in double-figure rebounds when the Wildcats (3-3) host Grambling State (2-4) on Saturday at 2 p.m.