Sophomore attackman Jason Lewin set the all-time scoring record last season at the University of Tennessee with 94 points as the Vols won their first SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference Championship in 6 years. Jason took time from his busy spring schedule to sit down with E-Lacrosse's Sonny Pieper.
E-Lacrosse: Jason, thanks for taking some time to meet with us. Give us some personal background. Where did you grow up? When did you first pick up a lacrosse stick? How did you get involved with lacrosse initially?
Lewin: I was born in Montreal, Canada on March 3, 1980. I am 20 now and have lived quite an interesting life. I lived in Canada for about 8 years, and I was addicted to playing hockey. That's what everyone did. Then, when I was about 8, my family moved to Clermont Ferrand, France. I lived there for just a short time. The next stop for my family was in Greenville, S.C. I lived there for three years. I then moved to Hudson, Ohio. This is where my lacrosse experience began. I was in the sixth grade at the time. All the older kids' brothers were playing. We all thought we would be cool and try it. For me, I knew it was something I was not going to be able to let go of. I played on my first team the next year for the middle school. It was so much fun. Lacrosse made me decide to go to the prestigious Western Reserve Academy to follow my interests in education and lacrosse. At WRA, lacrosse was a way of life. I got to play a little varsity as a freshman, but it was hard because of all the post graduates on the team. I only played there a year. My family and I moved to Memphis, where I attended Memphis University School. I am now a sophomore at University of Tennessee majoring in international business.
E-Lacrosse: Describe your high school experience at the Memphis University School in Memphis, Tennessee.
Lewin: My high school experience in Memphis was a great one. I attended Memphis University School. When I got there, the sport was very much on the move. The school was being very receptive to the sport, and that year they hired a full-time lacrosse coach who would change my whole outlook on lacrosse. His name was Elliot Dent. He was (and still is) a coach very dedicated to the work that he does. His drive for success is incredible. He made us all into very dedicated lacrosse players. His whole life revolved around changing the reputation of the sport at MUS. Now, he is one of the most respected coaches in TN. Memphis lacrosse as a whole is a lot different than people may imagine. There are more and more well-rounded players coming out of Memphis everyday.
E-Lacrosse: How did you get involved with University of Tennessee Lacrosse? Did any varsity programs recruit you? Why did you choose Tennessee?
Lewin: I had always planned to go away to a lacrosse school once I graduated from high school. It was what I had dreamed about, and it was what everyone expected me to do. I had gone to all those camps in the summer where everyone tries to showcase their talents for the top coaches in the country. God bless my parents, because they probably have spent more money on my lacrosse habits than on anything else that they own. Toward my senior year it was paying off. The previous season I had made the All-American team. I was very excited, and I knew this would bring a lot of recruitment. Well let me tell you that an All-American from Tennessee is not on a lot of the top D1 schools priority list. Luckily, I was heavily recruited by some of the best D3 schools, such as Denison, Washington College, Ohio Wesleyan, Hampton Sydney.... It was a great experience. I even received letters from Butler and Lehigh. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I went on a couple of official recruiting visits and realized that a lot of the schools were way to far from home. I'm a mama's boy and realized I didn't want to be that far away. I, along with some of my good buddies, chose UT. The first day I was up at school I saw someone playing lacrosse. I talked to them and a week later I was practicing with the team.
E-Lacrosse: What are your thoughts about your current team & Head Coach Buff Grubb?
Lewin: Buff Grubb is just an all round great guy. I have had so many coaches in all kinds of sports, but only a few guys stand out. Buff is definitely a coach that stands out among the many. There are several reasons for this. First off, he is dedicated to something that he loves. He has a family and runs his own business, yet he is at every practice fired up and ready to push us hard. He has knowledge of the game like no one else. He played at Rutgers and has a great experience on which to draw from. Buff is also a very fair coach. No one individual is higher than the team. I knew I had to work hard in Fall Ball because Buff was looking at everyone as an equal and not who were the starters of the previous season. Above all though, everyone on the team has the utmost respect for Buff. Nobody wants to let him down. That is such a special coaching trait to have. That is not a quality that you ask for, but a quality you earn by being the best coach that you can be. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason for our success starts and ends with Buff. Also, I really enjoy playing lacrosse with the guys on the team. There is a lot of talent on our team and this makes every practice fun and worthwhile. When you practice as much as we do, you have to enjoy who you play with or else you would be miserable. Buff is a great coach, but without our assistant coaches, things would be a lot tougher. Everyone knows how hectic a lacrosse game can get. With our great assistants, our practices and games are very well organized. Unlike some SELC & USLIA programs, we are lucky and honored to have a great coaching staff here at Tennessee.
E-Lacrosse: Last year as a freshman, you set a Tennessee Scoring record (94 points); your team won the SELC Championship and earned a spot at the USLIA National Championship in St. Louis. Comments on last year's spectacular season? Any difficulty in repeating the success of last year?
Lewin: Last year was a great season. The records that I set were a surprise to me, but I knew that I could do it if I worked very hard. Our team last year was very young. This season, we basically returned all of our starters. I know that repeating my 72-goal season will be tough. Now, everyone knows that I am a big shooter and I am played really tight from the face off. But this does not bother me at all. Our team has so much talent that if a lot of attention is directed on me, then another one of our key players will be able to step it up. This is the plus about being on a very talented team. I do my best to help the team, but in no way do I ever carry the team. Last season was great, but this season should definitely prove to be a better one. Our competition is tough, but I believe that we have the talent to rise above the rest. I feel strong about my own play as well as the team's play as a whole. If our team plays the way I know we can, nobody will be able to stop us. I am not just talking about the SELC either. I mean nobody in the USLIA.
E-Lacrosse: Comment on the overall success of the USLIA and the national championship tournament in St. Louis. Did you ever envision getting to play top colleges like Michigan, Colorado, or Texas A&M when you decided to go to Tennessee?
Lewin: The USLIA is a fantastic organization! Going to the national championships last season was a great experience. There was so much talent on every team. That just says a whole lot about the USLIA. I am certain that an USLIA All-Star team could easily contend with many varsity programs. It was just a neat experience being in St. Louis with so many talented teams from all around the United States. It was even nice to get to hang out with Gary Gait. Playing teams like Michigan and Colorado was wonderful. When I tell people about Tennessee Lacrosse and some of the games we play, they cannot believe it. The USLIA has really done a marvelous job in bringing everyone the best competition they can ask for.
E-Lacrosse: Your team was 10 - 0 before Saturday's (March 11) tough one-goal loss to # 7 Virginia Tech in Knoxville. Comment on the 2000 season so far? Any thoughts on playing Harford (a JUCO team from Bel Air, MD) or Mars Hill College (Div 2 team from North Carolina) vs. playing Illinois or Virginia Tech (two top rated USLIA teams)...
Lewin: This season has been very good. We are now 11-1 and feel very strong about the rest of the season to come. We have had the opportunity to play a very diverse schedule. It is so wonderful having the opportunity to play D2 and JUCO teams. As you may know, we defeated both of these varsity programs. I think that this says a lot about us. I think there a lot of teams in the USLIA that could compete at a very competitive varsity level, but it all comes down to politics. I mean, I enjoy the tough competition of a Virginia Tech or an Illinois much more than playing these varsity programs that we were able to handle easier than expected. Again I think that this says very positive things about the USLIA.
E-Lacrosse: Outlook for the remaining games on the schedule? Do you feel that your team is underrated or over-ranked at this point in the season?
Lewin: The remaining schedule is now a matter of quality, not quantity. We have a very tough SELC matchup against Georgia. Another very tough game will be on the road against one of the top USLIA teams in the nation (Michigan). These games will prove to be very challenging. I believe our team has proven itself as a very well rounded ball team. I don't think we are overrated. I think that we are right where we should be. Being ranked # 5 in the nation is not too shabby. Could we be the top spot? It is surely not impossible. We hope to get a return bid to St. Louis to prove our team's worth.
E-Lacrosse: Biggest game left on the slate? Outlook for the SELC regular season and SELC tournament in Chattanooga, TN @ Finley Stadium?
Lewin: I think that our biggest game left is against Michigan in Ann Arbor. This will be a great way to see how two top-ranked teams in the nation fare against each other. We played them twice last season, losing the first game by 3 and winning the second game by 7 in St. Louis at the National Championships. It will be a no holds barred event. We are both coming out to prove something. This game is gonna set a tone for our team. If we win, it will be a great confidence booster and it would happen at a perfect time. If we play our game, then there is not doubt that we can give the Wolverines a very tough game. As for the rest of the season, I think that it will be a catfight. It will be very tough competition with the likes of Virginia Tech, Georgia, and Auburn all wanting a piece of the 2000 SELC championship in Chattanooga.
E-Lacrosse: In your opinion, who is the biggest rival for Tennessee Lacrosse? And why?
Lewin: Everyone knows that our biggest SELC rival is Auburn. Our games are always flat out battles. Once again, Auburn has a lot of talent on their squad. It always feels good to win a very tough played game, and we can always bet on getting a tough game from Auburn. Off the field we have a lot of respect for one another. We probably will have to play them again in Chattanooga if we are to repeat as SELC champs.
E-Lacrosse: What does the future hold for Tennessee Lacrosse?
Lewin: The way that things are going now shows a very bright future for UT Lacrosse. Our reputation and level of play has risen so much, that more and more good lacrosse players are choosing to come to school here. The possibilities are endless. That is why I love playing this great sport at this great school.
E-Lacrosse: Thanks for talking with us today. Good luck this season. Hopefully, you can help lead the Vols back to St. Louis for another shot at the USLIA National Championships.