By Jason Galvin – Cougar News Staff Writer
Snap. Crackle. Pop.
While those sounds might sound appetizing in the morning, they send shivers up the spines of athletes. College of the Canyons freshman point guard Kelli Lewis was once considered the next great thing at Hart High School. She played with current Oregon standout Taylor Lilley and right after former Ohio State star Ashlee Trebilcock. But after a solid freshman season at shooting guard, snap, Lewis’ game would be altered after suffering a torn ACL. Before her sophomore year ever began, Lewis was left on the sidelines.
After a year of rehabilitation, Lewis was determined to makeup for lost time her junior year. Crackle. In the blink of an eye, the ACL in her left leg snapped, and it was back to the drawing boards for Lewis. Most players would have given up after a second major knee injury in as many years.
Kelli Lewis is not most players.
She came back for her final season at Hart when, pop, her right knee gave way again, this time re-injuring the ACL and tearing the Meniscus. Lewis played through the injury with the help of a massive brace, but she never realized the potential most saw from her freshman year.
After a third surgery, Lewis would have been crazy to come back to the sport she loved, right? Guess again. This time she took a year off, and while taking classes at College of the Canyons, red-shirted with the women’s basketball team. It was an experience that shaped Lewis and helped mold her potential into on-court success with the Cougars.
“I got to know all of the girls on the team, and it made it a lot easier coming in this year,” Lewis said. “All of the girls got to know me and the way I play…the girls think of me more as a sophomore.”
So what possesses someone to come back from three major knee injuries in as many seasons? Even Kelli Lewis can’t answer that question to the fullest.
“I’m not a quitter…I just felt like one, two, three, it’s kind of pushing [my body], but still, I can recover.”
Lewis averaged 11 points and 5.5 assists per game this season, and was named All-Western State Conference after the Cougars first round playoff loss to LA Trade Tech. She led the Cougars to a 22-5 record, an undefeated Western State Conference run, and a 19-game winning streak; all pretty impressive for a player whose coach was unsure of her position with the team just six months ago.
“Kelli Lewis has been an experiment waiting to happen,” said WSC Coach of the Year Greg Herrick. “At COC, the point guard is the focal point of the offense…it’s an ongoing learning point for [Lewis], but she always wants to be perfect.”
The Cougars are losing a lot from this year’s team, including state Co-Player of the Year Ashley Wakefield, but Lewis is confident the team will continue to be strong next season.
“I’m trying to be the leader that I should be on the floor, and hopefully next year we have the same type of family we had this year on the team.”
Despite her rough road so far, Lewis has some high expectations for her future.
“I’d like to play at UCLA, whether it’s with a scholarship or I walk on. Hopefully there’s no injuries, knock on wood.”
Check out the full interview with Kelli Lewis and Greg Herrick below.