BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE (1999)
Dubbed "instant offense" during his first two years as a sixth man for the University of Minnesota's men's basketball team, senior forward Quincy Lewis used to take a lot of heat, some of it public, from coach Clem Haskins, for his spotty defensive play and itchy trigger finger. But by the end of a heady junior year--which included a Big Ten All-Tournament selection and a pivotal performance in the team's 1998 NIT championship--Haskins hoped the 1998-99 co-captain would step up on both ends of the floor. He hasn't been disappointed. After the team put away Purdue at home in late February, the usually circumspect coach started telling the media he was coaching one of the premier players in the country. The numbers don't lie. Besides aggressively attacking the basket, tossing up silky smooth jumpers, and giving his team second and third chances on the offensive boards, the smiling six-foot-seven terror from Little Rock, Arkansas, has become an all-court, All-American candidate with over 39 steals and 13 blocked shots. Both ESPN and Street & Smith have already dubbed Lewis a legitimate contender for a first-round bid in the draft. What's most impressive, though, is that Lewis has grown as much as a person as he has as a player. When Sports Illustrated came to town in January to write a profile on the Big Ten Player of the Week, they focused not on his 24-points-per-game average, but on his charitable personality. Frequently visiting sick children, speaking out on campus affairs, and mixing it up with nonathletic peers at the university, Lewis has taken his role as a student athlete to heart. Here's hoping the ever irritating NBA does right by this Golden Gopher. Image isn't everything. But it helps. And besides, the kid's got game.