Graduate students Trey Lewis, Damion Lee stepping forward as leaders for Louisville


One of the questions surrounding graduate students when they join a new program is how they’ll fit within the team dynamic. For some, that single season can be more about enhancing their own prospects of a professional career, an approach that can have a negative impact on team success. But for others the transition is a seamless one, as they focus on doing whatever the team needs with personal ambitions taking a back seat.

In the case of Louisville additions Trey Lewis and Damion Lee, talented players who experienced individual success at prior stops but never reached the NCAA tournament, the two guards have not only fit into Rick Pitino’s program but stepped forward as leaders for the Cardinals.

Forward Mangok Mathiang talking highly of the former Cleveland State (Lewis) and Drexel (Lee) guards’ transitions in a story written by Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The graduate transfers, who had already completed careers at other schools but had one year of eligibility left, joined a Louisville team in transition and made it their own, assuming key leadership roles alongside redshirt junior Mangok Mathiang.

To their teammates, it felt natural. To coach Rick Pitino, it was exactly what his team needed.

“(Pitino) could’ve gone around the country and recruited a bunch of scorers who were going to the put the ball in the basket, but they do a bit of both,” Mathiang said. “Their leadership carries this team.”

Both players are capable of putting the ball in the basket, with Lewis averaging 16.7 points per game last season and Lee ranking among the nation’s top scorers at 21.4 ppg. Yet while the two newcomers will certainly be needed to score with Louisville’s top two scorers from last season, Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier, in the NBA, they’ll need to contribute more than that for a team that’s pretty young.

Lewis and Lee are two of Louisville’s three scholarship upperclassmen, with Mathiang being the other, so their leadership will be critical as well. Win or lose Louisville’s ongoing trip to Puerto Rico should help when it comes to team chemistry and role definition, with their two most experienced players already making a positive impression.