Photo by Leonel Monroy
The Chapin Huskies boys basketball team continues to dominate the competition on the court this season and getting some much-deserved statewide attention in their berth to make it deep into the Texas state playoffs next month.
The 14-0 Huskies boys’ basketball team is ranked 12th in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. They remain first in the district and city in 5A play with four games remaining in the regular season. The team is led by sophomore KJ Lewis, who’s ranked by ESPN as 21st in the nation among the class of 2023, but the sophomore standout isn’t the only reason for the team’s winning streak.
“We’re playing more like a team,” said coach Lewis, not related to KJ Lewis. “Everybody thinks it’s a one-man team with KJ. He’s having a phenomenal year, but the other guys are stepping up and playing well above themselves and accepting their roles on the team and making us better.”
One of those players is senior James Holmes who also sees something special in this team.
“The experience over the last couple years has allowed us to bond,” he said. “Coach Lewis has helped us to know what it takes, what kind of work needs to be put in to get it done. Right now, we are learning from our mistakes and trying to get better every day.”
Senior Michael Herrera also sees the strategic difference in the team.
“This year, we have weapons from every side of the court – on defense and offense,” he said. “We are going to go further than we did last year.”
With four games left in regular season play, the team is focused on making the school, district and city proud as they aim for the state championships. Coach Lewis knows it’s a tough path – El Paso’s only state championship was Eastwood High School’s 1976 team.
“The playoffs are a grind,” coach Lewis said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time and hopefully, we can make a run at the state championship.”
It’s definitely on the mind of the whole team – at practice and games as they progress through the season.
“We all know our role and we have a common goal to win the state championship,” KJ Lewis said. “We’re hanging out a lot more – obviously with masks and doing stuff we can do. We’re also working harder in practice and building chemistry.”
KJ Lewis, who averages 28 points per game, hopes to continue to move up in the national rankings, land a spot on on McDonald’s All-American team and later become a professional basketball player.
“I’m trying to represent the city as best I can,” he said. “It’s been a blessing.”
The nationally-ranked sophomore, already getting college offers, plays above his age and continues to improve on the court.
“We’re doing our best to help him become the best player he can be,” coach Lewis said. “He has a goal of being the No. 1 player and it’s my job to push him to be the best he can be.”
Meanwhile, the team continues to meet the challenge in a season amid a pandemic.
“It’s had a huge mental impact but it’s a test on how mentally strong you are and mentally committed you are to your sport – being the best you can be when you are hit with adversity,” Holmes said.
Coach Lewis admires the players for their commitment to the game and the team during COVID-19. Thankfully, players have continuously tested negative and are able to play – even in empty gyms.
“It’s draining to get through a season with no fans,” he said. “I take my hat off to these young men and women for having to play without a crowd, to slow down their social life to keep themselves in a bubble to finish out a healthy season. Our guys have stood up to the challenge.”