The Step Back Q&A: Kira Lewis on speed, NBA Draft prep and putting on pounds

Kira Lewis talked with The Step Back about the NBA Draft process, the genesis of his blazing speed and the challenges of eating six meals a day.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another prospect this year who’s rocketed up draft boards the way Kira Lewis Jr. has. As recently as April, ESPN was slotting him into the 24th slot of its mock drafts. Now, seven months later and with the draft just a week away, there are rumblings that the point guard out of the University of Alabama could crack the top-10.

There’s a reason Lewis Jr. — who averaged 18.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore — has fans across the NBA. For one, he’s probably the fastest player in this year’s draft class. He’s shifty with the ball in his hands, too, and flashed an improved stroke from deep last year (36.6 percent on 4.9 attempts), giving him the makings of a dynamic offensive player. At a slender 6-foot-3 — he was listed at 165 pounds in college but says he’s now closer to 180 — there are questions about his ability to hold up on the defensive end of the floor. But he’s impressed scouts with his basketball IQ and, given he’s just 19-years-old (he won’t turn 20 until April), there are good reasons to believe his body continues to fill out.

In the meantime, Lewis Jr. is focused on the things he can control. Below we talk about that and more. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Fansided: What has this whole pre-draft process been like for you? I imagine, given everything going on, it’s been different than you have expected.

Kira Lewis Jr: It’s been good but, like you said, it’s different this time. Normally you get, like two months, a month-and-a-half to get ready for the draft. Now with all this time you got to sit back and be patient, but at the same time you can work on your game a lot more, and be with family before you go on to the next level — it’s been good. But it’s also been long.

Have you envisioned draft night at all? Or daydreamed about what it will be like to hear your name call?

It’s so funny. It’s Nov. 5., the draft is less than two weeks away and it hasn’t even hit me yet. It’ll probably hit me like the night before.

I imagine part of that is because of how disjointed this whole process has been.

Yeah. Like, for all you know they might push the draft back another month (laughs).

What’s that been like for you?

It’s definitely tough. Because you’ll be like, a month away and they’ll be like, “It’s being pushed back,” and it’s your time to finally fulfill your dream and they are pushing it back a month. So it’s been really mentally challenging, but you just stay the course. Keep working on your game.

I’ve heard some prospects say the extra time has benefitted them a bit. Do you feel like that’s the case?

It’s definitely benefited me. It’s allowed me to polish my game more. As far as the time goes, I’m thankful for it.

What’s something you’ve been able to do because of all that extra time?

Watching film, watching college film, and then watching film of guys that are already in the league to see how they use certain situations and see how you can see yourself in a situation. Asking questions like, “Does that translate to your game?” Things like that.

What NBA guards do you like to learn from or do you look at and say “that’s a good example of someone I can copy?”

I kind of watch every guard but for the majority of my life guys like De’Aaron Fox, (Dennis) Schroder — guys with my kind of build, with speed, kind of slender guards. I’ll try to simulate stuff I see them do.

What do you say when people ask about your size and whether that could hold you back in the NBA?

You might think that, but at the end of the day, I’ll go out there and compete. Don’t just automatically look at my size and think that I can’t play with anybody, because there’s a lot of people in the league that probably have a slimmer frame, but they might be some of the most dangerous players in the league. Just don’t look at size and automatically count somebody out.

Have teams asked you that question in interviews?

Yeah, they ask me what I do, like, do I lift weights, or how much weight have I gained? Things like that.

How much weight have you gained?

Around 12-to-13 pounds.

What’s the daily meal input?

I’m eating a lot. Like five or six times a day.

Are you at the point where eating feels like an annoying task? Like homework?

When I first started that kind of how it was. I set an alarm for meals. But I’ve gotten accustomed to it now.

When you’re allowed to, what’s the go-to cheat meal?

Pizza.

Any kind?

Pretty much Domino’s or Pizza Hut.

What’s a typical day like for you now?

Wake up early, sometimes 5 a.m., sometimes a little later, like 7:30, then work out in the morning, do weights. Sometimes there are interviews during the day — then just chill with the family and relax, and do the same thing tomorrow. And eat.

Your speed is one of your greatest strengths. When did you first realize that you were faster than other kids?

I was always the fastest but I really didn’t pay attention to it until in high school. I started racing friends for fun — my freshman year I played wide receiver in football and would race on the field or in the parking lot after practice — and I would always win. Then we started playing different teams from different states and I was getting past them, too.

Did you have to learn how to be fast with the basketball in your hands?

I actually thought I ran faster while dribbling because I pushed the ball in front of me — I wanted to keep it beyond my hip because otherwise, it would slow me down — and then I had to go get it.

Was that a skill you had to learn or did it just come naturally?

It’s just something you learn when you get older, just trying to beat your man but not being too wide or putting the ball too far in front of you.

How hard is to thread the needle between utilizing your speed but playing within the control and within the game and finding a middle ground?

You got to watch a lot of film, you got to know how to pick a spot, when to go from fast to slow or slow to fast and change the pace because people are going to scout you, they are going to know your tendencies. So you really just got to watch film, see when you can use it and see when you have to tighten it up a little bit.

How do you think your speed will translate in the NBA?

With all of the spacing on the floor, it opens up a lot of things, especially for someone like me, someone who wants to get into the lane and cause havoc, who wants to play fast and make plays for myself and teammates. Having a lot of shooters gives you a lot of space and driving lanes.

It also seems like, between your floater and the Eurostep you added last year, and your change-of-pace moves, that you spent your last season at Alabama preparing for the NBA.

Yeah. Just wanting to always have something you could go to. Teams like mixing it up on you and making you uncomfortable, so I’m always working on something that might be uncomfortable that you can then make comfortable.

What’s something about you that you think people would be surprised to learn about you?

I love to try to rap. Like, I can’t like freestyle, I can’t make a rap. I can’t just come up with it, some people just do it at the top of their head. But I like trying.

Who’s your favorite rapper?

I’d say my favorite rapper is probably Lil Wayne or Drake.

Let’s say you play the Raptors — you going to trash talk Drake a little bit?

Nah. Only if he starts coming at me.

Yaron Weitzman is a freelance writer and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow Yaron on Twitter, @YaronWeitzman.

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