Gina Lewis probably should have been dribbling a basketball before she could walk.

The Holy Spirit High School senior comes from a basketball family.

Lewis says her mother, Donna Martin, played at Pleasantville High School and her father, Robert Lewis, played for Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University) in Pennsylvania. Her first cousin and best friend is current Sacred Heat High School standout Kennedy Johnson.

But Gina didn't start playing until she was 12 and already at her current height of 6-foot-1. Her career started at the Atlantic City Police Athletic League.

"A couple of neighbors came over and said I should play since I was very tall," Lewis said. "I wasn't the best when I first started out, but I ended up falling in love with it. I still to this day don't know why I didn't start earlier."

Lewis is making up for lost time. She averages 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Spartans, who are 11-2 and ranked No. 11 in The Press Elite 11.

Spirit will host Shore Conference power Pt. Pleasant Beach in a Prime Events Shootout game at 7 p.m. Sunday. The Shootout will be held Saturday and Sunday at Spirit. The showcase event features many of the state's top teams.

Lewis lives in Egg Harbor Township and turns 18 today. She is being recruited by several NCAA Division II and Division III schools but has not yet made a college choice. Lewis wants to major in sports management.

In a telephone interview Monday night, Lewis spoke about a number of topics, including her late start in basketball and her friendship with Johnson and her hobbies before basketball.

On being tall at an early age: I liked it a lot. Being tall, you get noticed more. You get more attention and obviously I can help people reach stuff. I was always a lot taller than most of my teachers, so they would always ask me to help them with different stuff.

On what activities did she before basketball: Not a lot of people know this about me, but I did ballet and gymnastics. I wasn't good at all. I was terrible actually.

On the start of her basketball career: I was really nervous when I first started, and being tall I was clumsy and uncoordinated. I didn't know how to do a simple layup. It took me about a month to do that. But I got the hang of it. My family supported me with basketball, and once I started, I played 12 months a year.

On attending Holy Spirit: It's a great school. Most of the (students) are athletes, so we all stick together. But even if you're not an athlete, everybody has his or her friends.

On what she does to relax away from school and basketball: I like watching movies with my family. I go out to the movies with my mom every Sunday night. I like reading a lot. I'm a little bit of a nerd. I'm reading the book "Warm Bodies" right now. I like suspenseful books, drama books. I can read anything. When I read, I'm so at peace with myself. I can cut out the rest of the world. I can finish a 500-page book in two days.

On her friendship with basketball legend Julius Erving: He's friends with my mom. My mom works at Trump Taj Mahal Casino (and she met him there). I went to a couple of 76ers games with him. The first time I met him I was really nervous. But I realized he was an easy-going guy. He gave me a lot of advice for basketball, too.

On turning 18 today: Being 18 comes with a lot of responsibilities. It's bittersweet. Growing up, being a kid, you don't want to get too old. But it's cool. I'm happy about it. I'm maturing as a person. I'll probably do nothing to celebrate because I probably have practice in the morning (on Saturday).

On her friendship with Kennedy Johnson: My dad and her dad are brothers. It's really cool. We went to middle schools that were rivals. It's cool competing against each other, but at the end of the day I'd be over her house hanging out.

Contact Michael McGarry:


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