Ford star ends stellar summer with St. John’s offer

Ford star ends stellar summer with St. John’s offer
Photo by Denis Gostev

Mike Toro meets with each of his players individually before every season and the Bishop Ford girls basketball coach had a special message for rising junior point guard Aaliyah Lewis. He approached her about being more of a leader, something Toro felt she’s begun to do. He wanted her to be one of the team’s captains this year.

Lewis told him to hold off on the latter, feeling she wasn’t ready just yet.

“I feel like I haven’t matured yet,” Lewis said. “Basketball wise I’m there, but [not yet] off the court.”

Toro felt that her statement in itself was a sign of her growing as a person and a player by taking a wait-and-see approach before taking on the responsibilities. He said she needs to learn to deal with frustration better, to put it aside and not let it affect her play on the court.

Her ability there is unquestioned. During a timeout at St. John’s University team camp Sunday, Lewis pulled rising junior forward Tanasia (Sweets) Blake aside to explain something she saw.

“You see on the court as a point guard she always tries to lead the team, tries to be vocal,” Toro said.

Lewis ended a stellar summer with Ring City with an offer from St. John’s to go along with ones from Rutgers and Boston College. The 5-foot-4 guard also has serious interest from West Virginia, Hofstra, Southern Illinois, Iona, North Carolina State and VCU among others. She said the process hasn’t become overwhelming yet, but knows it will only intensify with time. It’s her motor and fearlessness at her size that impresses coaches the most

“St. John’s is a good look,” Lewis said. “I actually like this campus. That just motivates me to get better. I know I have a lot to do to prepare myself for a top D-I school.”

The attention she has gotten has only motivated her to get better. Lewis always has had the ability to get break down defenders and get to the basket. She has even become more efficient at it, needing less dribbles and steps to get into the lane and get off a shot.

Her concern now is finishing more, by adding a floater and improving the consistency of her jump shot. Lewis connected on 3-pointers in bunches last season, including three in the third quarter of an 18-point performance of an overtime win over Molloy in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I quarterfinals. Toro said that, combined with her passing ability, allows her to make her teammates better.

“At least she knows that no matter how good she is now there is always improvement,” Toro said.

That’s exactly what her focus is for a Falcons team that loses just two players, one starter, after an uneven campaign. Ford fell to Mary Louis in a CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Class AA tiebreaker game last winter. Lewis will be part of a deep and talented backcourt with Shanice Vaughan, Aaliyah Jones and Jill Conroy.

“Now that I see it’s getting closer and closer to my senior year,” Lewis said, “now I see I really have to step up now.”