High school basketball: Sam Lewis senior of Simeon chooses Toledo

There are still a lot of unknowns for Sam Lewis of Simeon, one of Illinois’ top twelve senior prospects for the Class of 2023.

For starters, he has yet to play a regular season game at his new school; Lewis transferred at the end of the school year after spending the last three years at Oak Park. Lewis played throughout June with the Wolverines and acted as a promising and talented senior.

But athletic 6-4 Lewis knows it: Toledo is his college choice.

Lewis signed on Friday to coach Tod Kowalczyk and the Rockets, ending a draft where he was a coveted mid-major prospect.

“They showed a lot of interest, but throughout the staff that signed me, they always talked about how they were going to help me on and off the pitch,” Lewis said. “I appreciated that and really prioritized that in the hiring process.”

Lewis said the coaching staff, style of play, campus setting and “knowing that the people where I come from have been successful” in Toledo all played a role in the Rockets’ pick.

Lewis becomes another player in a long line from Illinois that thrived in Toledo.

Currently, former Oswego East star Ray J Dennis is back averaging 12.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and four assists. Former Bloom star Dante Maddox, Jr. is transferring from Cal-State Fullerton.

Julius Brown, who played at Hillcrest more than a decade ago, is Toledo’s third all-time leading scorer. Warren’s Nathan Boothe was an All-MAC performer, scored nearly 1,500 career points and is the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots.

Lewis, a versatile perimeter player with exceptional physical attributes and advantages, hopes to be the next product from Illinois to play in Toledo.

Under veteran Kowalczyk, Toledo has averaged 22 wins a year over the past five years. They reached the NIT three times and won four Mid-American Conference West championships during that span. The only thing missing from Kowalczyk’s impressive resume is an NCAA tournament appearance.

Getting Toledo to take the next step and enter the NCAA Tournament is a high priority for Lewis.

“It’s a big thing for me,” Lewis said of helping Toledo to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 42 years. “I’ve dreamed of playing in the NCAA tournament, and if I can be the right man for them in two or three years, depending on my development, and help them get to a tournament, that would be a dream.”

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