Lewis Brings New Dimension To Cal
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  06/21/1999
There is no doubt about it; being a freshman at Cal is a hard transition to make.

But imagine making that transition as a freshman student-athlete. It is by no means an easy undertaking.

Just ask freshman center Latifa Lewis.

"It's hard," said Lewis. "You're mentally exhausted from just going to class, and then you have to practice and become physically exhausted, and then you eat and all you want to do is lay down, but you can't because you have homework and papers to do."

"It takes a lot of mental toughness to study when you're so tired. But it is something that you have to do. It's a balance, and it's hard to find that median, but you find it."

Lewis, a Berkeley High School graduate where, in her senior year, she earned All-City and All-Metro honors, looks to be making her transition to college life a very successful one.

At 6-4, Lewis stands along with fellow 6-4 freshman and roommate Shavaki Jackson (Berkeley HS) and 6-2 freshman Ami Forney (Newark HS), providing Cal with increased depth in the post for the first time in head coach Marianne Stanley's tenure.

"(Stanley) has been really cool," said Lewis, who credits her coach for providing the constant support and encouragement needed to succeed at Cal. "She tells me about upcoming events and authors that are going to be in town that that I like and can go see."

"Coach Stanley knows that I like to read a lot. My favorite author is J. California Cooper, and she just happened to be in town. Marianne keeps track of these events and she goes to some of them herself, and if she knows that I'd like to see it, she'll tell me, and so I got a chance to meet J. California Cooper and get a book signed by her."

Those are the cool and accommodating portraits of Stanley. In practice, however, she can be as demanding and intense as any big-time college coach.

"The first and last hour are the hardest," said Lewis. "It's just running for three hours straight. We do everything."

"(Freshmen) don't get special treatment. She'll stop and explain things to us, and she'll be patient with us, but basically, she expects us to go in and remember what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to be as if we are returning players."

For Lewis, the keys to success lie in uncovering her weaknesses and focusing on ways to improve them.

"Once I play and get a feel for what everybody else is doing, then I can really see what specific areas need improvement and what I need to focus on to do better," said Lewis.

That same focus is one that the entire Bears lineup has undertaken this season, striving to succeed where last year they struggled.

"Everybody wants to win, and everybody is very competitive," said Lewis. "The level of competitiveness in practice is very high"

"When we play in practice, it is just like we were playing another team and not our teammates, so when something happens and people end up on the floor, you just help them up and continue to run. Hopefully, it will pay off."

Lewis certainly is trying to put herself in a position to help the Bears return to the NCAA Tournament. Just look at her typical Monday schedule.

7:00 a.m. - Wake Up, Leave For RSF

8:30 a.m. - Individual Workout w/Coaches

9:00 a.m. - Shower, Breakfast

10:00 a.m. - Class

11:00 a.m. - Read, Study, Lunch

1:00 p.m. - Class

2:30 p.m. - Practice

5:30 p.m. - Ice, Training Room

6:00 p.m. - Dinner

7:00 p.m. - Study Hall

10:30 p.m. - Return To Dorm

11:00 p.m. - Time To Sleep

As should be evident, Lewis stays busy, moving around, balancing school and athletics, composing poetry in what little spare time she can find, and trying to be as positive a contributor to her team as possible.

Time will tell just how much of an influence Lewis will play with the Bears, but for now, she is just happy to be here, no matter where the future leads.

"I chose Cal for athletics and academics," said Lewis. "I don't know how I'm going to feel about playing basketball in four or five years, and if I feel like I don't want to play anymore, I'm going to be in a position where I have graduated from a very good university."

By Patrick J. Merrill

University of California