Scott Lewis was having a breakout year.
The South Portland native averaged 13.5 points per game and hauled in 8.2 rebounds during the Husson men’s basketball team’s 2020-21 season. Lewis and coach Warren Caruso were excited by the 6-foot-6 forward’s potential heading into the summer of his junior year.
On July 2, 2021, Lewis was tired as he drove to his family’s camp. Lewis fell asleep behind the wheel and jolted awake right before his car crashed into a telephone pole going 55 mph. He was able to steer the car to the left and the car’s passenger side slammed into the pole.
Lewis broke three vertebrae and his sternum in the crash and was rushed to the hospital, where he had six vertebrae fused together.
Nine days later, Lewis left the hospital. The doctors told him that it would be a year-and-a-half before Lewis would play a basketball game but he didn’t listen.
Just 10 months after the crash, Lewis was back at practice with the rest of his team. He’s now resumed his position as a starter and this past week Lewis was named the North Atlantic Conference defensive player of the week, averaging four blocks over three games, with seven coming against New England College on Dec. 9.
It’s an amazing comeback, but when Caruso first heard about Lewis’ crash, basketball was the last thing on his mind.
“The first thing that goes through your mind is, ‘Is he OK and will he be OK,’” Caruso said. “The second part was more important. The last thing we’re thinking about is basketball, we’re just worrying about Scott. Early on there were a lot of questions and my heart just sank. I got a little emotional about it but when I saw him in the hospital a couple days later and saw he was OK, it certainly helped.”
Lewis rested at home for three months after being discharged from the hospital. He said the pain, both physically and emotionally, was tough.
“The amount of pain there was, I can’t describe it,” Lewis said. “I couldn’t go anywhere unless someone brought me.”
Every hour, every day for those three months Lewis was in a back brace. He would go on regular walks, with each one a little longer than the last.
Slowly, Lewis built his strength back up.
And in between watching television and playing video games, Lewis would keep in touch with his teammates from home during the first semester of the 2021-22 school year.
“I stayed in touch with everyone and everyone was staying in touch and supporting me,” Lewis said. “I am thankful for all my teammates because it helped me a lot.”
J Thomas, Lewis’ roommate at Husson two years ago, said he and the team drew a lot of inspiration from Lewis.
“Scott is one of my best friends on the team, that was my roommate, and so with his passion for the game, he really loves basketball and I know it was hard for him,” Thomas said. “My mentality last year was, I want to play for Scott because I knew Scott wanted to be on the court, like, really bad. I didn’t want to come to practice moping and being sad because he would kill to be in this position. I’ve never told him but he really motivated us without him even knowing.”
It was tough for Lewis to watch games and not be on the court, but during the second semester Lewis was back on campus and went to as many practices and games as he could make.
Still, Caruso was not sure if Lewis would be able to come back to full form.
In May and June of this year Lewis started to do some shooting drills and get back into a basketball rhythm. In July he was scrimmaging with the team.
“In August we were getting ready to start and we were optimistic that he would be able to play,” Caruso said. “Now, to what extent? We still didn’t know and to his credit he works hard every day and he is playing through a lot of pain and discomfort at times.”
Lewis started lifting weights this summer and was ready to play when the season came around. Still, after such an in-depth surgery there were mental hurdles that Lewis had to overcome.
“The doctors told me everything is fine and everything is in place, but even right now I am scared of getting hit in the back,” Lewis said. “That first game I was pretty nervous.”
In Husson’s scrimmage against Southern Maine Community College on Oct. 25 to begin the season, Lewis played 19 minutes and scored five points.
In the Eagles’ first regular season game on Nov. 8, Lewis played 20 minutes, scored 14 points and pulled in five rebounds against Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This season, Lewis has averaged 24.3 minutes per game, has scored 12.6 points and also hauled in 5.3 rebounds. He’s started six of Husson’s nine games.
“He means a lot to what we do,” Caruso said. “We’re trying to bring him along slowly but with our schedule and our play we probably played him more than we planned to and hopefully that pays dividends later in the season.”
Lewis is happy to be back on the court.
“I feel good,” Lewis said. “Every day I feel stronger and more time goes by and the more strength I’ll get. The doctor originally told me a year and a half and I beat that, I’m back in less than a year. It feels great to be able to play.”