Five months before he ever had a chance to suit up for the Saint Louis University Billikens, Mike Lewis II is forgoing his senior season to pursue a professional career. He made the announcement today on his Instagram account.
“Due to unforeseen complications with the NCAA about my Senior year… I will be starting my professional career this upcoming season, this is a dream come true and the beginning of a new chapter in my life I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point so far and hope we will continue to grow together…“
Credit Lewis for his positivity despite a ruling against him, but it’s hard not to get hung up on the fact that the NCAA has victimized yet another student-athlete for reasons that will never be explained or understood.
As discussed when Lewis first committed to SLU – just six weeks ago – his transfer situation is somewhat complicated. He weathered a coaching change between his first and second seasons at Duquesne, first opting to transfer and then deciding to stay, before deciding to leave DU for good mid-way through his junior season after his role there diminished. He landed at Nevada as a mid-season transfer and experienced another coaching change halfway through his first academic semester, and long before ever playing a minute for the Wolfpack.
When he transferred again, this time to SLU, expectations were optimistic that Lewis would be eligible to play immediately in the fall. Between a second coaching change in his career, his never having played a minute for Nevada, and a seemingly loosening standard for waivers, there was little reason to beleive Lewis wouldn’t be playing immediately in November. Instead, he becomes the fourth player since Travis Ford took over as head coach to leave SLU before ever appearing in a game for the Billikens, after Ty Graves, Adonys Henriquez, and Luis Santos.
Rather than finishing his eligibility and degree at SLU, Lewis will sign an agent and pursue professional options, likely overseas. And rather than making the logical, ethical decision on behalf of a student-athlete, the NCAA chose an outcome in which everyone loses. Lewis must now find a place to play professionally without having played competitively in 2019, SLU loses both experience and perimeter shooting as the calendar turns to June, and a student-athlete enters the professional world without a college degree.
While SLU fans wonder why Mark Smith was granted immediate eligibility after transferring from Illinois to Mizzou last year (just don’t ask Mizzou fans about Dru Smith), or why Braxton Beverly was denied immediate eligibility the year before, only for the decision to be reversed, or why these things generally seem to work out more favorably for schools in power conferences, there are two things to keep in mind: No satisfying explanation exists for this outcome, and the NCAA would never attempt to provide one, anyway.
In the meantime, there’s nothing left to do except wish Lewis luck as he pursues his dream.
SLU men’s basketball now has two open scholarships for the 2019-2020 season. There may be more surprises yet to come.