ATLANTA – Like most important moments, this could have been overlooked.
Jada Lewis made a simple foul shot with 3:41 left in the third quarter. On February 15, it gave the Georgia State Panthers’ women’s basketball team a 39-32 lead over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at Fant-Ewing Coliseum in Monroe.
But it meant so much more.
That simple foul shot gave the redshirt junior from McEachern High School in Powder Springs 1,001 points in her Georgia State career, becoming the 22nd Panther to eclipse 1,000 in her career. She later added another pair of free throws as the Panthers downed the Warhawks, 52-43. She currently stands 21st on the all-time list with 1,016 entering the regular season finale with Georgia Southern. Rhian Jones is the next target. She has 1,048.
Lewis wound up with 9 points, and the milestone free throw, but the team’s vctory was more important as she became the first Panther to hit 1,000 since Kendra Long.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Lewis said of reaching the mark. “I’m not real big on individual awards, but I am thankful that I was able to reach the milestone in three years.”
Lewis came to Atlanta as a highly touted veteran of McEachern. She scored 1,612 points as the Indians won the title in Georgia’s largest classification the last three years during her stay. The Atlanta Journal-Consitution named Lewis the AAAAAA Player of the Year for 2016. (For good measure, McEachern won a fourth straight title in 2017.)
“I had the best high school coach in the country in Phyllis Arthur,” Lewis said when asked about her time with McEachern. “She taught me discipline, hard work, and how to be a great player. She was very strict. If you didn’t play hard, you didn’t get on the court.”
Arthur echoed the same sentiments. “I use her as an example with my current players,” she replied in an e-mail conversation. “She was one of the best players to come through McEachern. Her work ethics were impeccable. She lived in the gym perfecting her craft.”
“A quick short story. When Jada was a junior, I told her she needed to score more. Her comment was, ‘I don’t need to. We have Te’a Cooper (a McDonald’s All-American) for that, I’m a defensive player, I want to play defense on the other team’s best player.’ Well, after Te’a’s graduation, Jada told me she was going to work on her shot. She worked on it all summer. When she got back in August, she showed it to me. And she has been perfecting it ever since.”
That perfecting jump shot served Lewis well during her freshman year in 2016-17. She led the Panthers in scoring with 11.6 and was Sun Belt freshman of the year.
However, her sophomore year wasn’t as golden. An injury prevented her from playing in all but the first three games. Georgia State was unable to bounce back from the loss of the star and the team limped to an 8-22 mark. She received a medical redshirt and kept that year of eligibility.
In 2018-19, she formed a powerful triumvirate with Allison Johnson and Walnatia Wright. Georgia State stormed to a 17-14 record in coach Gene Hill’s first year. The team finish fourth in the Sun Belt and had its’ first postseason berth since 2003. Lewis led the team in scoring with 13.6 points and had 30 versus North Carolina Central.
The Sun Belt was put on notice this year, as Lewis was tabbed a Preseason First-Team All-Sun Belt. However, nagging ailments kept her out of four games this conference season as the Panthers are now 8-20.
Because of the injuries, (Johnson is also out for the year) Georgia State has been forced to a youth movement. At times, Coach Hill put five first-year players on the court at once. There are signs things are coming together. Earlier this month, the Panthers won four in a row, including victories over Little Rock and at the Cajundome in Louisiana. Both of those achievements have not been accomplished since 2014.
“It’s a tough process,” Lewis said. “But our young players are getting it. They’re working hard every day. They’re figuring it out.”
The injuries have made reaching this point tough as well. “It hasn’t been easy,” Lewis said. “People look at the accolades, but it took a lot of hours in the gym. When you try to change the culture of a program, there are things you deal with every single day. It’s not an easy task. To be able to stick with it and not transfer, it takes a lot of heart. I don’t think everybody could do what I’ve done.”
While there was a moment to acknowledge the milestone, Coach Hill admitted that it was then back to business. “For Jada, she wants to get into that tournament (the NCAA’s)” he said. “That’s the most important thing for her right now. You want to see players in this program have this success. She’s meant a lot to this program.”
And there is enough time left for her to mean even more.

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