The cards on the table, the sun is about to rise and the Huron boys’ basketball team is healthy, hungry and ready to roll. The River Rats certainly have the talent, experience, expert coaching and all the intangibles needed for a long ride down the river that is expected to end at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
All the pieces are in order and the team is healthy heading into the postseason, including the return of Julian Lewis. The outstanding junior guard missed several weeks in February after fracturing his wrist during a game.
He returned to play in Huron’s 52-51 win over Kalamazoo Central on Friday.
“They are a really good team so it was good to get back to play against them,” said Lewis. “I was a little rusty but got better as the game went along. My wrist still is sore especially when I follow through but it’s getting better every day. I’m just glad to be back.”
He was back in a huge way on Tuesday night. Lewis scored a team-high 20 points in Huron’s impressive 64-54 win over defending state champion Lincoln. Even though it was played at EMU before a big crowd and with U-M head coach Juwan Howard in the stands, it was just another game on the schedule for the River Rats.
“It was great to win but really it was just another regular-season game,” Lewis said. “If we had lost it really wouldn’t have mattered except for figuring out what went wrong and fixing it.”
The River Rats have bigger goals then winning an SEC crossover game – even if it’s against the defending state champs and Lincoln sophomore sensation Emoni Bates. Because Huron has bigger goals. Well, one goal.
“We want to win a state championship and the way we do that is by winning one game at a time and not looking ahead so right now we are focused on Saline,” Lewis said. “Saline is a good team. If we don’t play our game and play how we are capable of they can beat us so we need to be ready.”
And Huron’s motto all season isn’t just to win the next game, but win the next practice, even win the next drill. It’s like the hockey motto: one shift, one period, one game.
“The team has had tunnel vision all year,” said Huron coach Waleed Samaha, after his team’s win over Lincoln. “We don’t look past anybody. We know all about Saline and what they did to us first round last year, and they’re more than capable of doing that again.”
And because of not only their talent but his team’s approach, Samaha added, “I’m confident we’ll be ready.”
They certainly appear ready with Lewis back. On a team that doesn’t have any superstars but a roster full of outstanding basketball players, Lewis at times does stand out on the basketball court. And it’s not just because he can score 20 points against a team like the Railsplitters.
“Having Julian just lifts everybody,” Samaha says. “He adds so many different dimensions to our team. He’s such a presence defensively that allows other guys to play confidentially on the defensive end. Offensively, he commands so much attention that allows other guys driving lanes and shooting space. He’s an elite defender and all-around great player and unbelievable teammate.”
As a sophomore, Lewis was already a key player for the River Rats last season. He says there is a big difference between last year’s team and the 2020 version folks are going to see in Districts.
“We have more experience and more confidence,” he says. “We’ve been playing together now for a while and that’s created really good team chemistry. We know each other’s tendencies and there is a real sense of team. We care about each other and it’s a family.”
Speaking of family, Julian is the youngest of three gifted basketball players in the Lewis household. His oldest brother, Michael, played at Wayne State and middle brother Avery transferred to Wayne State from Saginaw Valley State and will start playing for the Warriors next season.
Julian is only a junior but is expected to be the third Lewis to play college basketball – a pretty amazing accomplishment.
“I’ve had offers from about 10 Division 1 teams,” Julian said.
The list includes Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Denver, Toledo and Ohio University. He is holding off on making a decision and the list of schools interested could increase with a strong postseason showing.
But Julian, mature beyond his years, has his focus where it should be – on the ball.
“I’m not waiting for the biggest and best programs to recruit me,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed the recruiting process and have met a lot of great people. I’m going to go where I feel most comfortable and is the best fit for me, not necessarily the biggest name.”
He says he won’t make any decisions until at least after his AAU season.
Lewis has other things to focus on – and right now, first on the list isn’t Lincoln, Belleville or Saline. It’s today’s practice.
Huron opens the Districts at 5:30 p.m. on Monday against host Saline. The winner will play Belleville on Wednesday in a semifinal game. The semifinals and Friday’s finals have been moved to EMU.