A Bittersweet Farewell

Damion Lee.

Damion Lee.

Trey Lewis and Damion Lee only played for the University of Louisville for one season, but they won’t be forgotten. The two graduate transfers wrapped up that one year run last Saturday in the Cards season ending 68-46 loss at Virginia. They finished as the two leading scorers on a team that went 23-8, 12-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 18-1 in the KFC Yum! Center. Thanks to the school’s self-imposed postseason ban, instead of participating in March Madness for the first time, they’ll be on spring break. Lee and Lewis will sign autographs for UofL fans at a pair of events this weekend. They’ll sign at the Planet Fitness in Middletown on Friday 4-6 p.m. and at the Academy Sports on the Outer Loop on Saturday noon-2 p.m. The first 500 fans on Saturday will receive a free poster. There is a two item limit per person and no charge for the autographs.

Were you surprised by the ring that Coach Pitino presented to you after the Georgia Tech game?
Trey Lewis: I was surprised. That was nice. Damion and I were doing a lot of talking beforehand about what it could possibly be. We heard there was going to be a surprise, but that was definitely a big surprise. Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

A41_8188AIs that what you expected?
Lee: I actually thought it was going to be a jersey, half zero, half three, up in the rafters, but Coach said that you have to be an All-American to get that. And we’re just happy with the rings.

How do you sum up the emotions going from beating then-No. 22 North Carolina in front of an electric home crowd to finding out four days later that the school was self-imposing a postseason ban?
Lee: It was huge for us to come out, defend our home court and show that we can compete with a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country. Whatever happened after that week, we can’t let it affect us now.

A41_8039AWhen the ban was announced did you know that you had to hold this team together?
Lewis: We just knew that the team was going to follow our lead and follow our attitude. Once we addressed the situation with the whole team, we just said we’re going to continue fighting and we’re going to continue enjoying each other and have a great season. Since that moment, we embraced it and took it on.

Having been at Penn State and Cleveland State, not counting some of the off the court stuff, how fun was this season?
Lewis: I’ve been at multiple different organizations, but I can truly say that this has been the best of college experiences because of the people. The coaching staff, my teammates and the fans are just unbelievable.

Coach, how much did these two surpass even your expectations?
Rick Pitino: They added so much on the court. Remember I really thought that this was going to be a rebuilding year. We lost a lot. We lost 85 percent of our scoring. We knew they could score, but I did not know they were going to be instantaneous leaders. I made them captains right away, which was an easy decision to make because you noticed right away how the players gravitated to their leadership. It’s not normal what everybody witnessed this year. You don’t find a collection of people like this. In terms of collective attitude as far as people, this was off the charts.

What did you find out through this process about playing for Coach Pitino?
Lewis: The funniest thing is how he’s similar to me, in a sense. We both have the biggest passion for winning, and we hate losing more than we love to win. That drives us and fuels us, and I’ve just learned so much from him.

What stands out to you, Damion?
Damion: I texted Coach a couple of weeks ago and told him how much I admire him and everything, seeing him from afar and just hearing so many great things about him and actually being in his presence and understanding how genuine he is and the love that he has for Trey and myself and our families.

Coach, can we call them Louisville’s version of “The Unforgettables?”
Pitino: Why not? We can take that. I told them that this town will never forget you. The Louisville fans are as loyal as it gets, and I told them they will never forget you.

How much did you take it in when you walked off the court at Virginia?
Lewis: I definitely took in the atmosphere. This was a great place to end my career. I have to give Virginia a lot of credit. Out of all the years I played college basketball, this is probably the most well-coached team I’ve ever played against. VT

Photos by ADAM CREECH