MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
One of Hillsborough County's most moribund boys basketball programs has received a huge dose of credibility with three small syllables.
A former low-post standout at Chamberlain and USF, Lewis has been hired to try toresuscitate the program at Middleton, Tigers athletic director Derrick Gaines announced Wednesday.
"I just kind of like, jumped out of my skin, especially with the state of where our basketball program is," Gaines said.
Lewis, who spent the previous three seasons as an assistant at Division II Saint Leo University, becomes Middleton's fourth coach in as many seasons. He won't immediately be on the faculty, but Gaines said the school is trying to ultimately get him on board.
Middleton finished 3-17 last season.
"I reached out to Fred maybe two years ago, someone had recommended I give him a call because he was trying to do some high school coaching," Gaines said.
"At that time he thought about it and wasn't ready to commit and make that move. It just so happened when I had a vacancy this year, we talked and I shared the state of our basketball program and the way it was so he wasn't walking in blind.
"He wants to give back and help the youth of the community. He wants to use the tools of basketball to help them achieve their goals and get them educated."
A 6-foot-7 forward, Lewis averaged nearly a double double (14.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg) as a USF senior captain in 1992, when the Bulls reached the NCAA Tournament. He transferred to USF from the University of Tampa, where he was named Sunshine State Conference freshman of the year in 1988.
"I think with a household name like Fred and the things he's trying to do, if we have young kids at our feeder schools and middle schools who play basketball, it doesn't hurt having Fred Lewis at the neighborhood school," Gaines said.