Jada Lewis named Athlete of the Year

Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

After finishing this season leading the Georgia State women’s basketball team — averaging 13.9 points and 2.6 assists — Jada Lewis has been named Athlete of the Year.

She made the All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team and thinks she could’ve been much better.

“When I look back on this past season, I felt like it was one of my worst seasons on the court,” Lewis said. “Just me personally how hard I am on myself, I thought it was not good enough.”

Although Lewis is hard on herself, her hardwork has paid off .

“The lesson I learned was live in the moment, and everything is not as bad as you make it seem sometimes,” Lewis said.

Her journey to having a good year was a year in the making.

Lewis injured her foot, causing her to miss all but two games during the 2017-2018 season. But that didn’t stop her from bouncing back and helping the Panthers finish fourth in the Sun Belt.

“Instead of thinking about myself or just feeling sorry for myself, I thought about my team,” Lewis said. “Everyday when I went to practice, I made sure I was vocal [and] I still tried to get better every single day.”

Being vocal helped Lewis through her time off. It also made her look at things from a different perspective.

“I think [by] doing that, it helped me become a better basketball player,” Lewis said. “Not looking at the bad part and saying, ‘Oh, I’m sitting out for a year, why is this happening to me?’ I just looked at, ‘This is a part of the process, a minor setback for a major comeback.’”

It was a great comeback for Lewis nonetheless. From being the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year to being injured and now making Sun Belt All Second Team, Lewis’ career came back full circle.

Along with her great season, the basketball team also had a historic season.

Under first year of head coach Gene Hill, the Panthers went from 8-22 to 17-14, automatically qualifying them for the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament.

Their run for an NCAA Tournament appearance ended at the hands of the Appalachian State Mountaineers when guard Madi Story hit a game winner to end the Panthers’ hopes.

Lewis finished the game with five points on 1-of-9 shooting. She struggled the next game against North Alabama in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, scoring only four points.

“I think it kind of hurt us a little bit, but it was definitely a teaching moment,” Lewis said. “You go into [the tournament] playing an App State team that we just beat by 10 points a few weeks ago. Definitely a teaching moment, but the next time we go into the tournament, we are going into it to win. We’re not going just to win a game or to go to the semifinals.”

After this extraordinary season, much will be expected of the Panthers, but mainly of Lewis.

“My expectation for next year is being a better leader. That’s been my expectation since I’ve been at Georgia State even coming in as a freshman,” Lewis said.

Leadership is one of two expectations she has going into next season.

“Another expectation I have for myself is I need to get stronger,” Lewis said. “I noticed coming back from injury, I wasn’t as strong as I may have been or I probably wasn’t strong at all, so this summer I’m working on my strength and getting better on my all around game. I know when I’m at my best, my team is at their best.”

As a rising junior, Lewis is going to be the top returner of a team that will have just six players.

“Our goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament and be the best team in the Sun Belt,” Lewis said. “Next year, we do not want to settle for good, we want to be great.”