By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - All-American Cameron Jones scored more points than any player in school history over his four-year career and broke several school records during his memorable time in a Lumberjack uniform. But no one has scored more points per game in a single season than Bill Lewis.
Lewis, who lives in Munds Park during the summer, is proud of his record and checks with the media relations office each offseason to keep his grandchildren up-to-date with his status in the record books.
"I am a Christian," said Lewis on a trip up to Flagstaff this summer. "I have always prayed about my witness and my testimony. I feel that the Lord has given me that honor and I am going to accept it. I am not going to do anymore basketball and I can't play horse shoes anymore because of the arthritis in my thumb. I think I will take up tiddlywinks. It means that the Lord has blessed me."
Several players have come close to his mark over the years. James Plump scored 19.2 points per game in 1967-68. Walter Mannon scored 20.1 in 1970-71 and Jones flirted with the mark last season, scoring 20.0 points per game. But Bill Lewis' record of 20.4 points per game in 1955-56 still stands.
Lewis did not start playing basketball until the age of 18. His first coach took a look at the size of his hands and put him on the roster immediately. He eventually played for the All-Navy team in 1949-50.
"I ate a lot of leather in the center before I realized you have to keep your eye on that ball," recalled Lewis. "It hurts to get hit in the nose with the basketball. My eyes would water up."
After serving on an aircraft carrier in the Korean War, Lewis was looking to attend college and planned to go to William and Mary University. It was close to where he had been stationed in Norfolk, Va. But his parents lived in Flagstaff and had inquired with Coach Herb Gregg about him joining the basketball team here.
"I had been in the service and played ball down there in Norfolk, Va.," said Lewis "I had planned on going to William and Mary. My folks lived in Flagstaff and my dad and Coach Gregg got hooked up. Coach Gregg told him he needed a big guy. Back in 1952, 6-4 was not a midget."
He visited the campus and was on the team after a few dribbles of the ball. Gregg took him and he earned a full scholarship. He turned out to be a recruiting gold mine for Gregg and the Lumberjacks, but there was still some basketball knowledge and etiquette to be learned.
"In my first game against UA, I stole the ball and went down the court and put it between my legs and laid it up and the crowd went wild," said Lewis. "Then I heard a whistle. Coach calls me over and says there will be no more of that. I learned quickly because I did not want to be on the bench."
Lewis had a successful career as a Lumberjack, earning Joe Rolle Most Valuable Player honors after the 1955-56 season. He also set the career free throws made mark that stood until Kyle Landry broke it three years ago. He capped his career with a 39-point effort against Arizona State in his final game, helping the Lumberjacks post a 106-85 victory over the Sun Devils.
"The most fun I had came in my senior year when we played ASU," said Lewis. We beat them 106-85 and I scored 39 points. President Walkup declared the next day a holiday. Carol (his wife) had to get in line because all the cheerleaders were kissing me."
Lewis' teammate Frank Turley scored 46 points in a game in that same season, a mark that still stands. Including Turley, only three players have ever scored more points than Lewis in a game for the Lumberjacks.
Lewis would meet his wife, Carol, in Flagstaff at the local Dairy Queen, and they have been married for 58 years. He taught at Mount Elden and Marshall Elementary before taking a psychology internship in Pasadena. He then ran a clinic in Phoenix for 27 years and did another 20 years at Paradise Valley Christian as a psychologist, dean of students and principal.
"She had a bunch of girls with her," said Lewis. "She was a senior in high school and the prettiest girl on the campus. She turned 18, got married and graduated high school in the same month."
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the DQ and returned this summer for a cone. They have three boys, Daniel, Jonathan and Matthew, and have six grandchildren. They reside in the Phoenix area in the winter but spend their summers and falls each year at their house in Munds Park.
"Munds Park is a lovely community," said Carol. "We have a nice little church and lots of good people."
Lewis looks back on his time on the Mountain campus and his time on the basketball court fondly.
"It was a great four years," said Lewis. "I loved NAU."