JeQuan Lewis' growth at PG a key to VCU's winning streak

Feb 5, 2016 - 9:35 PM RICHMOND, Va. (AP) JeQuan Lewis is one of those players that has to be told to shoot the basketball.

A pass-first point guard, Lewis was caught up in being a distributor more than a contributor for VCU. But once he understood he could be both at VCU, he has become more productive and the Rams are now riding a 12-game winning streak.

First-year coach Will Wade could hardly be more pleased.

''JeQuan, he's been really, really locked in for the last month and he continues to be locked in,'' Wade said earlier this week. ''He came by my office ... as he was getting done watching all his film and going through everything, and that takes a lot of discipline to do that every day, and he hasn't had that before.''

Lewis has spent much of his time at VCU as the backup to Briante Weber, also a pass-first point guard.

In the offseason, Shaka Smart left to take the job at Texas, and Wade - an assistant for four years under Smart - returned. Wade was with the Rams during their Final Four run in 2011, and was Lewis' primary recruiter.

Early this season, though, Lewis was struggling to grasp his new role, and it came to a head during a game against Wisconsin at Madison Square Garden.

The Rams lost 74-73, and Lewis didn't play in the second half.

Wade didn't temper his criticism of Lewis after the game, telling reporters that the point guard needed to adjust his attitude, start celebrating the accomplishments of teammates and doing things the way he was being coached to do them.

Lewis said the benching was ''humbling,'' but ''it wasn't really a turning point.''

''It was just finding myself, trying to figure out how I want the season to go and what I want to accomplish,'' Lewis said. ''I had to take a look in the mirror and tell myself that I gotta switch it up, get back to being myself and stop trying to be something I'm not.''

It's a message that has gradually taken hold, and was enhanced right before the start of conference play. Wade instituted ''details'' that each player must perform every day to show their commitment to the Rams' success.

For Lewis, those details include watching film every day, and shooting free throws.

The Rams have been benefiting ever since, especially the past five games. Lewis is averaging 19.2 points during that stretch, while dishing out the same 4.8 assists per game he was previously averaging.

Before the last five games, Lewis was averaging 8.8 points.

His recent hot streak includes a career-high 29 points at Richmond, 22 points in a road victory at Davidson and 26 points, seven assists, two steals and no turnovers in an 84-76 victory against Saint Bonaventure.

''He's the difference-maker, Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. ''When he plays well, they're really hard to beat.''

The Rams (17-5, 9-0 Atlantic 1O), who won the conference tournament last season, are off to their best start in conference history heading into Saturday's game at home against George Washington (17-5, 6-3).

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