Islander Noah Lewis awarded Raptors scholarship

Noah Lewis of Comox has nailed the three-point dream shot for any aspiring student of basketball.

Only one person is chosen among the hundreds across the country who apply for the annual Wayne Embry Fellowship, which includes a season with the Toronto Raptors, studying under the likes of head coach Nick Nurse and president Masai Ujiri.

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Lewis landed the role for the 2020-21 Raptors season. It comes with a $30,000 stipend, with travel and accommodation on top of that, to gain operations experience at events including the NBA Summer League and Basketball without Borders world camp held during NBA all-star weekend.

“It’s an amazing level of access. I’d do it for free,” said Lewis.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s easy to be motivated for something you are so passionate about.”

That passion burned brightly through Lewis’ playing career at Highland Secondary in the Comox Valley and then in Canada West and U Sports for the Mount Royal University Cougars of Calgary. Following his playing days, Lewis earned his masters degree in sport business from Loughborough University in England, famous for its curriculum focusing on all aspects of sport, before becoming assistant coach at Mount Royal.

The competition to earn the Wayne Embry Fellowship is keen among young Canadian hoops types. Lewis said his “well-rounded” role in the sport, from playing to coaching and classroom work, is probably what put him over the top in this year’s competition to win it. This will be his second internship with a major-league pro team. Lewis’ practicum at Loughborough included a stint with soccer’s West Ham of the English Premiership.

“A career in sports is what I truly want to pursue,” said the 26-year-old Islander.

But when that will be again is anybody’s guess. The Wayne Embry Fellowship usually begins July 2. Lewis could not have anticipated his 2020-21 fellowship season with the Raptors would tentatively begin in December because the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the end of the 2019-20 NBA season and playoffs through this summer and fall into a so-called “bubble” in Orlando, Florida.

“It’s a strange time, for sure,” said Lewis. “They could defer the fellowship to 2021-22. Because you want the full experience [of a normal season].”

Lewis said that decision has yet to be made.

Even if the Raptors fellowship is postponed for a season, the pandemic might not allow for a university season back on the bench with the Cougars. All Canada West and U Sports fall sports have been cancelled, with a decision due on winter sports, such as basketball, in October.

“We, as coaches, have gotten used to doing a lot of things via Zoom,” said Lewis.

But when it’s time again for normalcy, Lewis is poised for a rare insight into the workings of a major-league pro sports team.

The fellowship’s namesake is Basketball Hall of Fame member and former Raptors senior adviser and GM Wayne Embry. His 50-year NBA playing and management career included in 1972, with the Milwaukee Bucks, becoming the first Black general manager in league history.

The Embry fellowship’s description lists rotations with the Raptors “in coaching, scouting, team services, player development, medical, financial, equipment, travel and G-League … in order to learn the role that each department plays within an NBA organization.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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