SI Vault
Pope, pols, Black Magic
Roger Jackson
February 18, 1980
Lewis Lloyd, No. 2 in rebounds and scoring, is Des Moines' latest rage
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 18, 1980

Pope, Pols, Black Magic

Lewis Lloyd, No. 2 in rebounds and scoring, is Des Moines' latest rage

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

The good citizens of Des Moines have rarely experienced such excitement. First Pope John Paul II accepted the invitation of a farmer from the nearby village of Truro and paid a visit to the city, drawing worldwide attention. Then Iowa's Democratic and Republican caucuses brought a horde of presidential hopefuls to town with all their attendant press and TV hoopla. And now there's Lewis (Black Magic) Lloyd, a 6'6" junior forward, who is breaking all of Drake University's scoring and rebounding records and propelling the school into national prominence again.

Not since the Bulldogs of Willie McCarter, Dolph Pulliam and Willie Wise reached the final four of the 1969 NCAA tournament (they nearly upset mighty UCLA in the semifinals) has there been as much sporting exhilaration around Des Moines. "Lloyd's really resparked interest in Drake basketball in the city," says Jerry Crawford, an attorney and campaign organizer (for President Carter) who triples as color commentator on Drake's radio broadcasts. " Des Moines has adopted Lewis and I think he has adopted the city."

Drake's leading scorer, Wayne Kreklow, and leading rebounder, Chad Nelson, having graduated after last season, Lloyd opened his bag of tricks and filled both roles for the Bulldogs. He ranks second in the nation to Tony Murphy of Southern in scoring (30.8) and second to Alcorn State's Larry Smith in rebounding (15.0). He could become the first player ever to win both titles in the same season.

In 1978-79 Lloyd played for New Mexico Military Institute, leading the nation's junior-college players with a 31.2 scoring average and making first team JC All-America. Thereafter a host of schools, including Nevada-Las Vegas, Kansas and Wake Forest, tried to recruit him before he signed on at Drake. How long his Drake career will last is another matter. There are recurring whispers that Lloyd will apply for hardship status and make himself eligible for the NBA draft this summer.

In any case, Des Moines is reveling in him while he's around. One college coach has likened Lloyd to Oscar Robertson for his ability to dominate a game, seemingly without effort. Another compares him to Adrian Dantley for his great body control. A third says his feathery shooting touch reminds him of former Chicago Bull Bob Love. Lloyd's inside strength conjures images of George McGinnis, and while, at 220 pounds, he appears to be overweight when stuffed into a uniform, his fluidity in the open court is reminiscent of Walter Davis.

"I don't think Lewis is just another forward," says Drake Coach Bob Ortegel, not a man to overstate matters, who adds another name to the look-alike list: Marques Johnson's. Lloyd's performance against big-time opposition has certainly proved Ortegel correct. In a 79-77 double overtime upset of Georgetown, then ranked 18th, Lloyd scored 29 points, including 12 of his team's last 18 in regulation time, grabbed 13 rebounds and had seven assists. Hoya Coach John Thompson was impressed with the ease with which Lloyd went about destroying his zone defense. "You expect a high scorer to go after his points," said Thompson, "but he was so restrained as he worked for inside position, he could lull you into thinking he wasn't that good."

Former Tulsa Coach Jim King says, " Lloyd has a sense of where the ball is and where everybody else is all the time, and he has a tremendous intensity that allows him to play whole 40-minute games without too many lapses. You don't see that much in college or even in the pros."

Last week, in Drake's 85-80 victory over NCAA-finalist Indiana State in Des Moines, Lloyd scored 30 points, brought down 14 rebounds and had six assists. Three days later Lloyd had 29 points and 17 rebounds, but Drake lost to Southern Illinois 72-67. At week's end the Bulldogs had a 13-7 record overall, with a 4-6 record in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Lewis spent three years at Philadelphia's Overbrook High, Wilt's school, twice leading it to the Public League championship game against Gene Banks' West Philadelphia team, but he was rarely in a class with anyone—classroom, that is. When Lewis did go to school, which was usually from September until the conclusion of the basketball season, his grades were passing. But when the basketball season ended, so did his interest in Overbrook. "I was the star and I liked to have fun," he says. "I knew I had to go to school while the season was on but after the season was over I didn't like to deal with it."

Instead, Lloyd and his friends would spend their days at a playground at the corner of 55 th and Poplar, a place they called the "Spectrum." "We used to play basketball in the hot sun until we almost fell out," he says. Lloyd also began to hang out at a delicatessen across the street from the "Spectrum." Soon his taste for Vernors Ginger Ale turned into a taste for Olde English 800 Malt Liquor. "It made you nice and woozy," he says. "There wasn't much else to do." By the time his class graduated in the spring of 1977, Lloyd had the equivalent of a 10th grade education. "If I could do anything in life over again," he says, "I'd want to go through my high school years."

Continue Story
1 2