SHERIDAN — Fallon Lewis remembers the squeak her basketball shoes made as she jogged down the ramp onto a brown-and-gold court. The steamboat logo, depicting a bucking bronco, and “Wyoming” sprawled across each baseline held so much weight for a born-and-raised Wyoming girl, who wanted nothing more than to play for the Cowgirls.
Lewis can still recall the goosebumps that would take hold as 3,000-plus fans greeted her and her teammates for another women’s basketball game on the High Plains. While her playing days are behind her, Lewis still embraces those same excited nerves before every home game, but in a different capacity.
She’s traded her sneakers for high heels, her water bottle for a clipboard and her spot on the bench is a little closer to head coach Joe Legerski’s chair. Lewis is the director of player development for the Cowgirls, and the path that led her there encompassed a dream she had chased since she first dribbled a basketball.
Lewis feels fortunate and blessed to have been coached by highly-regarded individuals in her basketball career. For three years, the Tongue River High School Lady Eagle absorbed all she could from Diane Moser.
Lewis played, grew and sharpened her game for not just a legendary Wyoming coach, but the legendary Wyoming coach. Moser has 718 wins to her credit, which is the most by any girls basketball coach in the Equality State.
Under Moser’s tutelage, Lewis was named to the All-State team three times and earned Northeast Conference Player of the Year honors twice. The two also combined to win the 2010 state championship.
“I credit everything to her,” Lewis said.
The accolades acquired commanded the attention of area colleges, and Lewis elected to take her talents to Sheridan College. She wanted to continue to fine tune her game in an effort to parlay it into an NCAA Division I offer.
Under Frank McCarthy’s direction — a coach who finished with 320 wins at SC — Lewis claimed a pair of Region IX All-Conference honors and was a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American honorable mention as a sophomore. Lewis’ goal of elevating her game and increasing her recruiting as a Lady General had worked. A call from UW soon followed.
“Her growth as a player was tremendous,” Legerski said. “She really developed her game to be a player that took charge. She was a tremendous leader, and we just knew we needed to have her in the Wyoming program.”
Legerski, who currently has a program-best 314 wins in the brown and gold, helped Lewis nearly average a double-double her senior year — 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game — en route to being named a Mountain West Conference honorable mention.
It was a quick two years, but a simple two colors left an indelible impression on Lewis.
“It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it,” Lewis said. “It’s a sense of pride to put on that Wyoming jersey. For me to run down that ramp into the Arena-Auditorium in front of 3,000 fans for your first game, knowing you’re a Wyoming kid and everyone knows who you are and your story and where you come from, it’s just that sense of pride that you want to play for Wyoming and do well for Wyoming.”
She still wants to do well for Wyoming, but it’s in a different space now. After a one-year professional career in Spain, the small-town Wyoming girl returned to her homeland, seeking a graduate assistant position for the Cowgirls.
Following her first day back on campus, Lewis received a call from an all-too-familiar voice. Legerski phoned Lewis, inquiring if she’d be interested in interviewing for a full-time position on the coaching staff.
Lewis didn’t attend another graduate class.
“That was the end of that,” Lewis laughed.
The former Lady Eagle and Lady General is now in charge of anything from day-to-day activities such as checking in with the student-athletes to larger-scale recruiting efforts. Lewis may not don the uniform anymore or knock down the occasional 3-pointer, but in many regards, it’s like she never left.
“Sean, our PA announcer, still announces my name at the end when the coaches do their thing, and he announces it how he used to when I played here,” Lewis said. “It’s cool to have that feeling and to still be here at Wyoming and to feel that sense of pride.”
Legerksi echoes that sentiment.
“When (a Wyomingite) plays, they just become a player that everyone throughout this state points to with tremendous pride, and Fallon exactly fits that bill,” Legerksi said. “Now that she’s on our staff, it’s magnified even more. Fallon is hero around this state.”
A hero from northeast Wyoming.
Editor’s note: Fallon Lewis will be the keynote speaker at The Sheridan Press Sports Awards on Wednesday, May 1. Learn more and get tickets.