TINTON FALLS, N.J. – There was a charity basketball game played at Ranney on Saturday night, and it was evident from the outset who was running it.
Before Hoops For Homeless got going, Scottie Lewis addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for attending and their donations, all of which are bound for Lunch Break, a non-profit organization based in Red Bank. At halftime of a competitive game featuring a couple of pretty formidable rosters with recognizable names, Lewis was the emcee for the slam-dunk contest.
After the final buzzer, after Lewis gave the crowd one final thrill as he threw a basketball off the wall behind one basket, caught it, windmill-dunked it, and was mobbed by the other players in celebration, Lewis could be found in the lobby of Ranney’s Gerhard Pavilion.
His gregarious personality and smile were on display, greeting people he knew, some others he did not. He took pictures, he chatted, he thanked people for supporting the cause, which will end up raising thousands of dollars. Saturday night was not about Lewis, but rather helping the less fortunate. Lewis, though, was a central figure in organizing and running the night, so some of the spotlight was bound to fall on him.
If you watched Lewis work on Saturday night, and you subscribe to the widely held notion that he is operating at a maturity level beyond merely a high school senior, then one thing became clear by the end of the evening.
Between his maturity, personality, and the fact that he is projected to hit the NBA as soon as 2020, what Lewis did on Saturday could be just the beginning of his ability to affect change and help people.
Down a back hallway at Gerhard late Saturday night, after things had calmed down, Lewis retold the story about the origins of Hoops For Homeless. While in Atlanta for an Under Armour Association event with Team Rio in 2016, Lewis and his teammates were at Chipotle when he witnessed a man, his wife and their three children asking people for food and money.
One particular man, upon being askWithed for help, said, “No, I have more important people to take care of.” After seeing this, Lewis, knowing the family might not eat that day, gave the family his food. For the rest of the day, it was all he thought about.
That day spawned deep thought because Lewis is empathetic to that sort of situation. He recounted when his family was poor, living with other family members, sharing bunk beds, not knowing where his next meal was coming from.
With that, Lewis knows he is, as far as basketball goes, a public figure. He has a platform, people are more than willing to listen to him, so why not use those things to his advantage in a positive manner. Thus, Hoops For Homeless was born, but in the (near?) future, it could be so much more.
If and when Lewis gets to the NBA, he knows he will have more resources at his disposal and of course a bigger voice to impact people. He spoke Saturday night about keeping his event going in the future in some manner, but then pivoted to bigger visions.
Lewis and his grandmother have talked about starting a nonprofit, doing charity events and doing a multitude of things to help not only his own community, but people all over the world. If he can get to the NBA, he wants to connect with budding (Mohamed Bamba) and established (Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James) philanthropists.
If these things sound like big dreams, well, they are. If you watched Lewis run around Saturday night at Hoops For Homeless, you realize, those big dreams really aren’t that far-fetched.