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Arizona freshman KJ Lewis wins dunk competition, plays with great effort in Red-Blue Showcase

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Back in June, head coach Tommy Lloyd said Arizona fans would soon realize what 4-star freshman KJ Lewis could do on the court when he finally got on the court.

“I think our fan base has, for whatever reason, there wasn’t a lot to-do about KJ, but I think there should have been, and I think when we see him play over the course of his career, we’re going to realize what a talent he is,” Lloyd said.

Lewis got his first opportunity, in Friday’s Red-Blue Showcase, to show what he could do in the dunk contest. McKale Center’s roof almost exploded on Lewis’s final dunk attempt when he jumped over Oumar Ballo to secure the win.

“It’s just crazy to see the support we get just for a Red and Blue game, so I can just imagine how much louder and how it’s gonna rock for a game against Wisconsin or a game against USC and UCLA,” Lewis said. :So it was definitely 10 out of 10.”

Lewis continued impressing the UA fans in the scrimmage, showing off his athleticism and relentless effort on defense.

“He’s a freshman, he’s done well,” Lloyd said. “He seems to kind of have been on a steady kind of upward trajectory. And that’s a credit to him. I’m sure some bumps in the road are gonna come as a freshman but he’s an extremely high character guy and his care factor is really high. So I think he’s well positioned to have a really good freshman year.”

Lewis finished with nine points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 18 minutes. He said afterward his style of play is fueled by doubters.

“I think it is definitely more of a chip,” Lewis said. “Just kind of coming out of high school they underestimated me and underestimated what I can bring to a team. Just talking to the coach staff and talking to my teammates, they believe in me. so that gives me that confidence to basically block out everybody that was a naysayer before I got here.”

After Lewis signed to UA last November, there were a lot of changes to the Arizona roster with the transfer portal additions of Caleb Love, Keshad Johnson and Jaden Bradley and seeing the changes left him wondering what his spot was on the team now.

“Definitely out of high school, you kind of get to over thinking and questioning yourself and what the coaches have planned for you,” Lewis said. “But I think talking to my family and talking to Coach Lloyd you know, he just told me to come in and do what I do best, play hard, give effort and everything will take care of itself. So, I think that’s what I did and I’m glad I’m here. It’s great to learn from like Caleb, Keshad and Oumar and Pelle (Larsson). So it’s a great experience so far.”

Lewis will get his next shot to continue to impress Arizona fans when the Wildcats play their first exhibition Oct. 20 against Lewis & Clark State.