Friday, March 21, 2008

Where is Jai Lewis Now?

When George Mason earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, analysts cried that a mid-major team was chosen over a squad from an important conference. Little did they know, George Mason would go on to change the mindset of the nation. Few expected them to make it past the first round. Instead, the George Mason Patriots made it to the Final Four before a loss to Florida.

Jim Larranaga, the affable coach whose playbook stressed the value of playing loose and having fun, became a national sensation after knocking off Connecticut, a team filled with NBA-level talent and favored to win the championship. That win led Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun to say, "They don't measure heart by inches. They don't measure courage; they don't measure basketball instinct and intelligence."

Maybe nobody signified the heart, courage, instinct, and intelligence more than George Mason's senior leader, Jai Lewis. Lewis was generously listed at 6-feet 7-inchesw, 275-pounds; inches were added and pounds cut. Despite his physical shortcomings, Lewis was able to outplay Connecticut's Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong, two bigs who were drafted in the NBA's first round.

With the NCAA Tournament underway and George Mason's upset fresh in our mind, we ask: where is Jai Lewis now? How did he get there?

Following the NCAA Tournament, Lewis played in the Portsmouth Invitational, a pre-draft camp for NCAA seniors. His play was solid, but questions regarding his game continued. For starters, scouts questioned his size. DraftExpress wrote:
Jai Lewis showed us nothing that we hadn’t already seen in the NCAA tournament. He was productive in this setting, but there are still major doubts about how his production would translate to the next level. He scored most of his points off simple post moves or open opportunities that were created for him by his teammates. He scores most of his baskets using his strength advantage, which will be diminished at the next level.

Lewis played some decent post D when given the opportunity, but he doesn’t have the ability to defend on the perimeter with his massive size and poor lateral quickness. [...] Lewis did do a good job on the boards, though, boxing out and grabbing eight on the night. Should he be able to shed 20-30 pounds over the next few months there might be something to talk about, but as of right now he appears to be a center caught in a shooting guard’s body.
The likelihood of Lewis playing in the NBA was slim. Lewis was faced with a decision between sports. He could continue playing basketball in a smaller league or attempt to utilize his size on the football field like Antonio Gates and Marcus Pollard, two former basketball players to make the successful transition to professional football. Jai Lewis decided to pursue a football career and a sport he hadn't played since high school.

Lewis worked to prove he could play in the NFL as either an offensive tackle or a tight end. He worked out for five teams: the Oakland Raiders, the Philadelphia Eagles, the St. Louis Rams, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the New York Giants. Six other teams explored the possibility of signing Lewis. On May 1, 2006, Jai Lewis signed a one-year, $275,000 contract with the New York Giants to play offensive tackle and long-snapper. He was going to have to earn a roster spot with a strong training camp.

Despite Lewis's physical toughness and athleticism, his NFL career did not last long. Two months after signing with the Giants, Lewis decided to end his pursuit of a football career. He was going to refocused on basketball.

Weeks after leaving the Giants, Lewis signed with KK Bosna for $8,000 a month. Lewis was expected to play a significant role for the defending champions. However, as fate would have it, Lewis was released from his contract in just six weeks. The team felt he was too small to play power forward in the Adriatic League. Lewis's goal, according to his agent, had been to make it a year in Bosna.

Shortly after leaving Bosna, Lewis signed to play in Israel for Ironi Ramat Gan. The contract was for "more than $5,000 a month." More importantly, Lewis was going to receive playing time. The potential for violence and poor officiating took some getting used to:
Despite safety concerns, Lewis said he felt at home in Israel. [...] He likes the Israelis, too – well, except for the basketball referees.

They're horrible," he said. "It's like they never played basketball."

He said he has adjusted to the routine checkpoint stops and metal detector searches at the entry of most grocery stores and malls where security guards stay on the lookout for suicide bombers. He also has grown accustomed to watching the young soldiers carrying their rifles. Upon turning 18, Israelis must serve in the Army, and Lewis said some of his teammates bring their M16s to practice.

"They say if they lose their weapon, they go from five years [of military service] to 10," Lewis said.
Lewis was able to adjust to the environment well and posted a fine start to his career. In twenty-seven games, he averaged 15.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.7 steals.

Following his rookie season in Isreal, Jai Lewis signed with Strasbourg, a French team. Like his stint with Bosna, Lewis would not last long in France. Just four games into the season, with Lewis averaging only 3 points on 27% shooting, Strasbourg released Lewis.

After playing for Strasbourg, Jai Lewis signed with Hapoel Galil Elyon, another Israeli team, to finish the 2008 season. Currently, Lewis is averaging 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals in league play.

With a chance to play in the NBA unlikely, Jai Lewis is still striving to improve in his professional career. Regardless of how he fairs, college basketball fans will always remember Jai Lewis as the star of the George Mason Patriots, a team that shocked the basketball world. Though we tune in to each first round game hoping to see another great upset, we know there will never be another team like George Mason.

14 comments:

Anonymous,  April 7, 2008 at 11:37 AM  

Nice article. Nice to know where our boy Jai has gone, and I hope he continues his play in professional basketball.

Anonymous,  April 10, 2008 at 5:40 PM  

Can you help us find out what happened to GMU's Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn, too? They supposedly went overseas.

Drew H. April 10, 2008 at 6:53 PM  

I don't have a complete update on them right now, but an article from Yahoo does a good job. It is a year old, though.(Click my name for the link.)

Anonymous,  June 10, 2008 at 4:42 PM  

Hoops Pro Jai Lewis Comes Home From Israel To Put A Dagger Writer In Her Place
www.daggerpress.com/category/balls/

Anonymous,  July 19, 2008 at 5:21 AM  

Lamar Butler played for Pertevniyal in Turkish Second Division (TB2L). He averaged more than 20 points per game.

Anonymous,  January 4, 2009 at 12:46 AM  

Here's a tip: Where you title an article "Where's Jai Lewis now?" put a date on the article.

Drew H. January 4, 2009 at 8:04 PM  

There is a date. Thanks for the constructive tip, though.

Anonymous,  February 3, 2009 at 10:48 PM  

Jai Lewis has a big chance of playing for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters come March, 2009. His previous teammate Gabe Norwood is playing for the team as well. Jai will most likely play as an import in the PBA (Philippines Basketball Association) premiere basketball league in the Philippines. Just a heads up.

Anonymous,  March 21, 2009 at 5:31 AM  

jai is now here in the philippines currently playing for the rain or shine team.

Anonymous,  March 31, 2009 at 7:46 AM  

March 31, 2009

Just read an article that Jai Lewis is doing very well with a PBA team called Rain or Shine (a detergent brand). He averaged better than 40 points and 20 rebounds a game. Playing alongside George Mason teammate Gabe Norwood helped.

I read also that he is playing professional baseball in Japan as well. After his stint in the PBA, he will return to Japan to continue to play baseball.

Anonymous,  April 20, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

Rain or Shine is a brand of house paint by the way not detergent. Just to correct the post above. And yes Jai has been performing really well though his numbers have dipped during the past few games.

Anonymous,  November 6, 2009 at 2:42 PM  

He led Rain or Shine all the way to the semis. Now it's the All Filipino conference and his former team is struggling. 0-5, they miss Jai so much. Hope to see him back here in the Philippines by March 2010. He's a darling of the crowd, a crowd favorite. He used to make the crowd roar with his cross over dribble, 300 pounds at that. LOL

Anonymous,  February 15, 2010 at 9:26 PM  

He's back playing for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters in the Philippines. I believe salary cap is set at 12,000 dollars and hell receive the full amount. He arrived yesterday and will be playing in the conference comes March 15, 2010. Good luck to him.

Anonymous,  March 4, 2010 at 3:05 PM  

I KNOW JAI LEWIS, HE REALLY IS A GREAT GUY, LOTS OF LUCK IN YOUR FUTURE, HKEEP UP THE GOOD WORK JAI, MISS YOU IN CALI. MS. T

About the Undrafted Free Agent

Ron Crimson was the only player on the high school roster to not get in a game. He couldn't argue with the decision, because he sucked. Needless to say, yet stated anyway, when he entered the NBA draft following his sophomore season in college, he went undrafted. Now, Ron Crimson is the Undrafted Free Agent.

Contact the Undrafted Free Agent

Interested in informing the Undrafted Free Agent of his mistakes, advertisement opportunities, or a scoop on the latest sports scandal? (You can guess which is more likely.) Well, email him at undraftedfreeagent [at] gmail.com.

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