When Channise Lewis was 4, her mother snapped a photo of her dribbling a ball.
Channise’s brother, Carlyle “Slim” Lewis, who was then 17 and a high school basketball player, saw the photo and noticed that his sister, with no prior instruction, had her head up and knees bent — perfect form.
The next day, the decision was made: Channise was signing up to play basketball in a recreational league.
Twelve years later, the picture looks even better.
Lewis is a 5-foot-8 sophomore point guard at Miami Country Day (Miami, Florida), and she already has college scholarship offers from Illinois, Kansas State and at least eight other major programs.
“If you need a quick bucket,” teammate Kelsey Marshall said, “she always knows how to get the basket or pass to an open player.”
Lewis has started at MCD since her eighth-grade season, when she helped the Spartans reach the Class 3A state final. Last season, Lewis and 5-8 shooting guard Danielle Minott led MCD to the first state title in any sport in the school’s 75-year history.
But Minott is now playing for Syracuse University, and that created an opportunity for Marshall, a 5-9 sophomore guard who had played the previous two seasons at Sagemont (Weston, Florida).
MCD coach Ochiel Swaby, a 6-6 small forward in his college basketball days at Miami and Central Florida, said he knew of Marshall from coaching against her.
“We thought she was a good shooter, but we didn’t know she was so good with the ball,” said Swaby, who led the nation in scoring (47.4) as a high school senior at North Miami and is now in his 11th season as MCD’s coach. “She handles at an elite level.”
Together, Lewis and Marshall are the motors for MCD, which is ranked 10th in the most recent espnW 25 Power Rankings. At first glance, they seem to be a bit of an odd couple. Lewis, 16, is quiet, and Marshall, 15, is much more outgoing.
But they also have a lot in common. Both are the babies of their families. Both grew up playing against boys. Both want to leave Florida for college. And both have roots in the Caribbean, including each having one parent born on the tiny island of Saint Lucia.
The Marshall story
Marshall is the youngest of three children. Her dad, Joseph, led Florida International University to a Division II national soccer championship in 1982, the school’s first title in any sport.
Joseph, who was born in Saint Lucia, was a starting forward on that team. He met his wife, Myrline, at FIU, went on to earn his master’s degree and is now a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
Myrline, who was born in Haiti and speaks Creole, French and English, is a medical records director.
To Joseph’s surprise, Kelsey didn’t want anything to do with his beloved soccer. She wanted to play basketball like her big brother Khyle Marshall, a 6-6 small forward who started for three years at Butler University and is now playing his first season of pro ball in Japan.
Khyle, who played his first three years under current Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, could dunk since age 12, and that made a strong impression on Kelsey.
One day, when she was about 6, Kelsey got a stool and tried to dunk a ball through the family’s backyard hoop.
The result was a broken arm.
“Everywhere Khyle went, she went,” said Joseph, whose other son, Brandon, also is a high school basketball player. “I never had to push her to play or wake her up for practice. She would just say, ‘Dad, make me some breakfast. I’m going to go work out.’ “
Kelsey, who has a 3.2 GPA and plans on studying physical therapy in college, was grateful when her first scholarship offer, from Auburn, came in recently.
“It was a relief,” she said. “It’s good to know that at least one coach noticed all the hard work I’ve put in to this.”
The Lewis story
Lewis is the youngest of five children, the daughter of Ivy, a doctor’s assistant who was born in Saint Lucia, and Carlyle Sr., a truck driver from Trinidad and Tobago.
Music is big in the Lewis house.
“My whole family knows how to dance — I guess it’s that West Indian thing,” Channise said. “My teammates always want me to dance because I’m the so-called best dancer on the team. I know how to break it down.”
Marshall agrees that Lewis has the moves.
“You wouldn’t expect that from [Lewis] because she’s so quiet,” Marshall said. “But she actually is a great dancer.”
Another Lewis skill is cooking.
Lewis, who also has a 3.2 GPA, dreams of owning a restaurant some day.
Basketball, though, is her main passion, and she has led MCD to a 71-6 record the past three seasons.
Swaby jokes that it would take less time to talk about the schools that are not recruiting her than the ones who have her on their radar.
“She has great vision and is an excellent passer,” Swaby said. “She has worked to improve her 3-point shot, and it’s now over 50 percent on most nights.
“There’s never a time when she’s frantic or the moment’s too big for her. I think she’s one of the top point guards in the nation.”
The Spartans story
MCD rolled to a 16-0 start this season, including a pair of impressive wins over nationally ranked Elizabethtown (Kentucky) and Long Beach Poly (California).
Both those wins came at the Naples Holiday Shootout, and the Spartans faced their third top team in three days on Dec. 31, falling to Long Island Lutheran (Brookville, New York), 56-53.
MCD got beat by a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left that banked in from just to the right of the top of the key.
“I guess it just wasn’t meant for us,” Lewis said. “The girl who made the shot was their post player, and that was her first 3-pointer of the season.”
The Spartans figure to put together another win streak soon. They are led up front by Michelle Berry, a 6-1 senior forward who has signed with Cal State Fullerton; and Ogechi Anyagaligbo, a 6-0 senior forward who signed with Stony Brook.
But the team’s top two scorers are Lewis (16.7) and Marshall (12.5). They are also 1-2 in assists and steals.
They remain the keys to MCD’s hopes of repeating at state.
“Winning last season was an amazing feeling,” Lewis said. “So far, I’m happy with the way we’ve played.”