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            Former Alabama guard Kira Lewis could be lottery pick as NBA draft nears

            Alabama basketball

            Kira Lewis looks for the open man in Alabama's 90-86 win over South Carolina.Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

            Former Alabama guard Kira Lewis continues to draw attention as a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

            Coach Nate Oats, who coached Lewis for his second and final year in Tuscaloosa last season, said Thursday he has spoken to almost every NBA team about Lewis ahead of the rescheduled draft on Nov. 18.

            “Honestly, from the start of it, from the end of our season until now, I think every NBA team [has reached out]." Oats said. "If it’s not every, it’s all but two or three. Just about all of them have reached out to do their due diligence on it.

            “I think if you’re hearing from them lately, those are the ones more interested. It’s getting sorted out. I think those teams from the middle to the end of the lottery, mid-lottery to mid-first round, everybody in that range is reaching out doing their homework.”

            The NBA draft lottery determines the order of the first 14 picks in the draft among the teams that did not make the playoffs the previous season. If Lewis is chosen within the first 14 picks later this month, then he will be considered a lottery selection.

            Oats said Thursday he has heard from teams as high in the draft as the Minnesota Timberwolves, who own the No. 1 pick.

            “I don’t think he’s going No. 1 in the draft, but who knows," Oats said. "There are some teams that are doing their homework with the possibility of trades are reaching out. We’re still getting a decent amount of them reaching out but most of them have done their homework.

            “Most of them know who he is. He’s got zero red flags as a kid. He’s a great person off the floor. He works hard. He’s in the gym. That’s the type of stuff -- they can see how good he is on film.”

            As a sophomore last season, Lewis led Alabama in averaging 18.5 points per game. The Meridianville native was the state’s top-rated recruit in 2018 out of Hazel Green High School.

            The New York Knicks, who own the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, made headlines last week when their leadership group had dinner with Lewis and added Oats to the conversation via FaceTime, the New York Post reported.

            “I think it was more one of the deals where I’ve known those guys a little bit," Oats explained Thursday. “They hired [senior vice president William Wesley] there and [general manager] Scott Perry was with the [Detroit] Pistons, and I used to go up to watch Pistons practices when I was a high school coach there [in Michigan]. So I knew them.

            “No idea where that’s going. I’m sure they’re going around interviewing all kids of people leading into the draft. I don’t want people to take too much out of it. It’s kind of a common connection. ... I think they wanted to make Kira feel a little more welcome. So we chopped it up, joked around a little bit. Talked about Kira’s game with them for a minute and then I got off. It wasn’t a very long FaceTime call."

            Also at the dinner was new Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, known most for his defense.

            “I think Kira’s defense got better as the year went on,” Oats said. "We kind of talked about that. I think Kira is a really talented kid. I think the way the NBA is played now, with how spread out, wide open it is, you can’t put your hands on people defensively. With him having the speed he’s got, the skill level he’s got, he can get in the paint whenever he wants, make plays. He was great in our system. We play a lot more wide open like the NBA is playing.

            "I think he’s gonna be a really, really good NBA player. It’s gonna be interesting to see where he falls in the draft. I’d love to see him go to New York. I think he’d be great there. Shoot, I’d like to come to New York and watch a few games. It would give me a good reason to come up and watch some games when our season is over.”

            Lewis, rated by ESPN as the No. 20 overall prospect in the draft, decided in the spring to leave Alabama after two seasons and pursue his professional career.

            Only one Alabama player, guard Collin Sexton, has been chosen in the past 11 NBA drafts. Sexton was the No. 8 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.

            Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter?@mikerodak.