A name change 21 years in the making


Justin Brown

Junior Terrell Lewis drives past two Murray State defenders in the first half on the Panthers’ 83-72 loss to the visiting Murray State Racers.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Before anyone knew his name, people were calling him “T” or “Lil T.” Eastern men’s basketball team’s guard Terrell Lewis’ father’s name is Terrell Lewis as well and he was “Coach T,” except Lewis Jr.’s name was Cornell Johnston.

Terrell Lewis Sr. was always coaching “Lil T” when he was younger and that is where the nickname came from, and it was the perfect fit for the Eastern guard.

“Before even hearing that from other people, and coming from other people, I had always wanted to be a Jr. when I was younger,” Lewis Jr. said. “I just wanted to have (my dad’s) name.”

When “Lil T” turned 21 Sept. 8, he had already made up his mind that when he had time off from basketball, he’d change his name from Cornell Johnston to match his father’s name. The name change did not become official until Jan. 10, where he was recognized as Terrell Lewis Jr. across the NCAA and at Eastern.

Lewis Jr. said he tries to spend as much time around his dad and that he made a big impact on his life growing up on and off the court.

“We do a lot of family things (together),” Lewis Jr. said. “On Christmas we went to see a movie, Fences, with some family. We go to church a lot, and just try to make the best of life and support our family together.”

Night in and night out, since his freshman year, Lewis Jr. has shined on the court for the Panthers, but he said he would not be where he is at today without his dad and his mom as well.

“He always taught me how to grow up and be a man,” Lewis Jr. said. “He’s always been that figure I needed in my life.”

Sometimes it seems easy with the way Lewis Jr. plays on the court, but what his father told him when he was young has stuck with him: take care of his business on the court, but especially off the court.

“Since I was young it was drilled in my head by my father and mother to go to school and make sure you get your grades right because if you don’t, those opportunities that you’re looking for won’t open up,” Lewis Jr. said.

Lewis Jr. stepped into the spotlight for Eastern basketball as a wide-eyed 18-year-old kid just 5 months out of high school as the point guard of the team.

Lewis Jr. brings the ball up the court almost every time for Eastern, and he gets the offense moving and sends out the signals to the other four on the court.

He has not slowed down since his freshman year, and now as a junior has grown into an even bigger leader.

“I’d say without my dad I wouldn’t have the same leader skills that I have now,” Lewis Jr. said. “He always pushed me to be better. Like when I was younger and not really understanding the game, and I just had skill, some of those times I wanted to give up.”

And it was times like that Lewis Jr. reminded “Lil T” that he had the heart to be able to jump over any obstacle in his way and helped him stay focused.

For anyone who knew Lewis Jr. growing up, he was never Cornell; he was always “T” or “Lil T.” The only people who called him Cornell were kids in class that heard the teacher call him that.

The name may have only been made official now, but for the last 12 years, “Cornell Johnston” was always just “T.”

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]