Basketball coaches can teach their players a lot.
Drills can improve ball handling, passing and rebounding.
Extra shooting can do just that, improve shooting.
There seems to be just one thing coaches can’t teach.
“You can’t ‘teach’ height,” said Glenwood coach Curt Schulte.
Glenwood center Jacob Lewis needs no instruction in that area. The 6-foot-8, junior, who is believed to be the tallest to don a Ram jersey in over two decades, is helping key a Ram squad that is 10-6 and in the chase for the Hawkeye 10 Conference crown.
Last season, as a gangly, 6-foot-6 sophomore, Lewis looked like anything but an all-conference candidate. He played in just four games, scoring six points and pulling down five rebounds for the season.
A summer in the weight room, more than 68 games with his teammates and an Omaha-travel team in various summer leagues and two inches of growth put Lewis in position for major minutes this season.
“I really wanted to get better this summer,” Lewis said of his off-season work on and off the court. “I wanted to get better all around. The more all around things you can do the better all around player you’re going to be.”
Schulte noticed Lewis’ improvement almost immediately in early season drills.
“He’s gotten stronger in the weight room, he’s quicker and he’s really seeing the game a lot better than he did as a sophomore,” Schulte said.” Throughout each game, he’s gotten better and better. He’s getting more comfortable and more confident on the block.”
This season, Lewis, at a legitimate 6-foot-8 and a not quite as gangly 195 pounds, has started 14 of 15 games and ranks second on the team with 10.6 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game this season while sharing the team lead in blocked shots (19).
Those numbers and the role Lewis has played in Schulte re-configuring his offense has the Rams poised for a late season run in the Hawkeye 10 Conference.
Schulte’s Rams are among the tallest teams in the conference with Lewis, 6-foot-4 Dylan Stouder, 6-foot-5 Corey Bertini and 6-foot-7 Drew Konfrst all playing major minutes in the frontcourt. That size has led to Schulte going away from his usually 4-out, 1-in offense for a more traditional two post-player system to take advantage of his team’s size.
The change has worked. With Lewis and teammates working inside, the Ram backcourt, led by top scorer Gage Shatava (17.3 points per game), has allowed Glenwood to increase its points per game by nearly five points over last season and top 70 points four times.
“It’s changed our philosophy,” Schulte said. “We haven’t had much height since I’ve been here. We were usually a four out, one in offense with four guards on the perimeter and one post. This year, we re-vamped to a more of three-out, two-in threat and with the height we have, getting the ball in the post is a high priority for us right now.”
Lewis wears size 18 shoes and is likely still growing. Doctors have told him he could top out at 6-feet-10.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Lewis said.
What Lewis is hoping for in the short term is his Ram team to keep on winning. The team’s goals, he said, haven’t changed from the start of the season.
“We want to be in the top three in conference, be the top seed in our district to get home court advantage and win four out of our six goals each game,” Lewis said. “We’re getting there. We didn’t play real well there for a few games but I think we’re getting there now.”
Lewis hopes to play college after next season. Some Division II coaches have already begun to show interest in the big man, according to Schulte.
“He’s a hard worker and he’s very committed,” Schulte said. “He’s put a lot of time in the gym, there’s no doubt about it. He worked hard in the off season. He’s worked a lot of his game and it’s really showed. He’s a good athlete too. He has good feet and runs well. College coaches like that.”
Even they can’t “teach” height.