Bishop Ford guard Aaliyah Lewis has steely determination, demanding the ball when the game is on the line. It’s one of the reasons she had a bevy of Division I offers.
But when it came time to announce her college choice at the Park Slope school Friday afternoon, something unusual happened.
Before the words ‘St. John’s University’ could reach her lips, the tears started to flow.
“Time just flew so much for me,” the senior point guard said. “Me just sitting here, naming my school, it’s a big thing for me.”
The realization that four years of hard work, of waking up at 5:50 a.m. every day, taking a bus, a ferry and two trains to school from her New Brighton home on Staten Island had paid off became too much.
It was a reaction that took everyone who knows Lewis by surprise.
“I’ve seen her angry, I’ve seen happy, but I’ve never seen her cry,” Bishop Ford coach Mike Toro said. “I’ve seen her call the coaches and shake and be nervous, but I’ve never seen tears come out of that kid.”
The 5-foot-5 guard, who averaged 12 points, four assists, three steals and three rebounds per game as a junior, had narrowed her choices down to St. John’s, Virginia Tech and Seton Hall after earlier eliminating Florida State and Syracuse from her list.
But Lewis, who was named second team All-New York City last year by MSG Varsity, said she knew St. John’s was the place to go after her visit to the school last weekend.
St. John’s was one of the first to offer her before the start of her sophomore year and she rewarded then assistant Joe Tartamella, who has taken over the reigns after Kim Barnes Arico left to coach Michigan.
Lewis said she loves the campus and the up-tempo style the Red Storm employs.
“It was Coach Tartamella, I think I’d get a great education there and the team is very nice,” Lewis said. “I was comfortable around them.”
Her original plan was to announce her decision on her mother’s birthday, Nov. 5. But Lewis said she couldn’t image waiting that long and essentially ended the recruiting process Friday afternoon.
“After my St. John’s visit, I already had my decision, I already knew I wanted to go there,” Lewis said. “I couldn’t wait, I couldn’t hold it in.”
That was just fine with her mother, Sabrina Murray, who Lewis honored with a bouquet of flowers.
“I’m ecstatically happy for her,” Murray said. “I can’t believe it has finally come, to be honest with you. This is something she loves to do, has passion for it. I’m just very happy for her…It’s just as special as if it was my birthday.”
It has been a long journey for Lewis, one she thought would have taken her to Murry Bergtraum after her freshman year at Bishop Ford. But Lewis opted to stay – she has always found it hard to say no, Toro said – and the end result is a Division I scholarship.
Lewis is the sixth Division I girls basketball player from Bishop Ford in the last four years. She follows Jamie Conroy (Northeastern), Shayra Brown (Boston College), Diana Mason (Radford), Brittany Martin (Old Dominion) and Shanice Vaughan (UTEP).
But she’s the first to go to St. John’s, a program Toro thinks she can thrive in immediately.
“St. John’s needs a pure point guard, someone who could step in for [Nadirah McKenith],” Toro said. “Aalyiah is one of those kids who can just fit in right away, get kids involved and just make a team better with her court vision.”
Now that the rigors of the recruiting process is over, Lewis is turning her attentions on her senior year and helping lead Bishop Ford back to the Brooklyn/Queens Division I title game.
Her remarkable driving heave against Molloy sent the Falcons to their first-ever B/Q title game last March. It’s a replay that Toro said he watched “about 50 times.”
“I’m still asking myself how in the world did she make that shot,” Toro said. “Next week, when we are officially able to start, I’m going to see if she could do that again. But I can’t believe it.”
Lewis said that was her greatest moment on the Bishop Ford court.
That is, until Friday afternoon.
“Today,” Lewis said, “is number one.”