RICHMOND, Ky (LEX 18) — Curt Lewis can play basketball, there's no question about that. The incoming Freshman averaged 37 points and 17 rebounds-per-game last season at the Louisville-based preparatory school Aspire Academy. He posted a career-high 51 points and 27 rebounds in a game versus Athens Prep.
During the 2017-18 season, Lewis was a Kentucky Mr. Basketball finalist at Valley High School in Louisville. He was voted the 6th Region Player of the Year after averaging 25 points-per-game as a senior at Valley.
"He's probably one of the most underrated high school players to come through the state of Kentucky in a long time," said Hamilton. "He's a super athletic, super talented big guard."
And although Lewis is currently sidelined with a minor injury, Hamilton made it known that the 6'4 guard is going to have his opportunities from day one.
"We're different than last year in the fact that we have some experienced guys. Last year we started three freshman and we knew we had to roll with those guys, so we can bring Curt along a little bit. But we do have big expectations this season for both him and Michael (Moreno)."
Lewis is your protypical power guard who gets to the basket at full speed and can flush it down with authority. Three point shooting is a part of his game he says he needs to work on, but his presence on the floor makes his teammates better.
"I make plays," said Lewis. "First thing I do is pass and create. I can score too, but I like to help the team by doing a little bit of everything, really."
Lewis says the decision to go to EKU was largely due to the energy that A.W. Hamilton brings to the gym every day. "His energy matched mine," said Lewis. "We just had that type of connection.
Michael Moreno is another Kentucky native that decided to stay home, and he can hoop as well. The Georgetown native played a key role in Scott County's run to consecutive State Title appearances, despite not being able to showcase all of his abilities in his Senior season. A foot injury forced him to miss a majority of the year. Still, Michael was well courted. NCAA Tournament teams Iowa and Wofford wanted him, but it was Eastern Kentucky who sealed the deal late.
"I think with the talent we have here we could make some noise in the OVC," said Moreno. "I can fit in really well and fill the voids that we're missing from last year. EKU basketball has been Nick Mayo and now that he's gone we get to create our own identity this year with nearly half the team being new guys."
Moreno is currently sidelined, biking and observing, but hopes to be in the full-swing of things by August.
And then you have Tariq Balogun, the third freshman. Unlike Moreno and Lewis he's not from the state of Kentucky. In fact, he's not even from the country.
Balogun was born in Italy before moving to London as a child. He didn't begin playing basketball until he was 14-years-old, which is part of the reason why Coach Hamilton is so intrigued by his upside. The other reason is his height. At 6 feet 10 inches, Balogun is unofficially the tallest Eastern Kentucky player this millennium.
"It's hard to get 6'10 athletic guys that have great motors at our level." said Hamilton. "But the thing I love about him the most is that he loves to play basketball. He's excited to work and get better."
Hamilton thinks that with the pressing style the Colonels have developed will help Balogun fit in early.
"He's a guy that can help us right away because he is 6'10 and when you put a guy like him in the back of the press, him just being 6'10 with his hands up will change shots. As he continues to work on his timing and reflexes he can really become a big time shot blocker for us."
One of the biggest weaknesses in his game right now are his hands. As a soccer player growing up he's used to handling a ball with his feet, but is developing his hand-eye coordination one practice at a time.
"He's got the smallest hands on a kid I've ever seen at that size," said Hamilton. "We're already throwing a million tennis balls at him a day so it's either he catches them or he will get a lot of bruises on his legs from balls."