More than 20 years ago, when Andre Lewis entered the huddle of his first game as a coach at John Marshall Harlan Community Academy High School, he never imagined he’d be recognized for his coaching prowess.

On May 6, the Kenwood Academy girls head basketball coach was one of 17 inducted into the  Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame, which has inducted legends including  WNBA superstar Candace Parker and Simeon Career Academy boys basketball head coach Robert Smith.

Coming off arguably the best season in the history of the Kenwood varsity girls basketball program, Lewis led the Lady Broncos to their first 30-win season in 2022-2023, and their first super sectional appearance in the program’s history. In preparation of the upcoming 2023-2024 season, Lewis’s team will compete in the Nike Chicago Summer League on June 6 and Windmill City Weekend Shootout 2023 on June 15-17 against the top teams in the state before the beginning of the regular season.

His shiny, new Hall of Fame plaque now sits in his office alongside his 2021 High School Girls Coach of the Year Award, also from IBCA.

“It was truly humbling to think that I would be selected for the hall of fame because, honestly, it’s not something I gave too much thought to,” Lewis told The TRiiBE. “To know that you’ve been nominated for your body of work is quite honestly overwhelming.”

To qualify for induction, a coach must earn at least 400 victories and hold a coaching position for at least 20 years, according to IBCA Hall of Fame Chairman Bruce Firchau. 

Firchau applauded Lewis for his investment into his players, and impacting their lives for the better. 

“There’s a lot of competition for these young people’s time, what [Lewis] has done has been remarkable,” Firchau told The TRiiBE.

Photo taken in January 2022 by Mike Hicks for The TRiiBE.

Lewis’s journey to the Hall of Fame was not one he made alone. He credits his mentors: Eugene Henry, former head coach at Christian Fenger Academy High School; Andre Peavy, former junior varsity boys basketball head coach at John Marshall Harlan Community Academy High School; and Thomas Johnson, former varsity girls basketball head coach at Morgan Park High School.

Henry helped Lewis understand how to develop effective relationships with coaches within and outside city limits, including Catholic League and suburban coaches. Henry was inducted into the Chicago Public League hall of fame as a coach in 2002 and the IBCA hall of fame as a coach in 2005 after 27 seasons on the bench.

“Coach Henry is the one who actually got me involved with the IBCA. He’s someone that I’ve always respected and admired because of his integrity and his honesty,” Lewis said.

He credited Peavy with giving him a coaching foundation he could build upon.

“[Peavy] showed me the ropes on what it meant to be a coach,” Lewis said. “I had an idea of what I wanted to be, but the nuts and bolts of the day-to-day, being organized, developing practice plays, developing relationships with players, and at the same time holding them accountable, he taught me those things.”

Johnson taught Lewis the golden rule of coaching: “players will care how much you know, when they know how much you care.”

It’s these nuggets of wisdom that Lewis now imparts on his own coaching staff, which includes associate head coach Demon Page, varsity associate head coach Adrian McDaniel, and junior varsity coach Anquinnette Holley.

“The thing I enjoy most about my coaching staff [is] there’s tremendous trust and respect. And there’s also honesty,” he said. “I could not have experienced the success that we’ve had in the last five years without the staff that I have because they are truly each one of them great coaches in their own right.”

For the 2023 season, the Lady Broncos finished with a 30-6 record. They lost 47-46 to Benet Academy in the IHSA Class 4A super sectionals round — just two games away from the state championship.  

“We didn’t reach our ultimate goal, but I am very proud of the year when you consider what we lost from the class of 2022,” Lewis said, referencing the graduation of star guards Bri McDaniel and Whitney Dunn, who are now playing Division I basketball at University of Maryland and Alabama State University, respectively. “A lot of people, honestly, didn’t think we would be as good as we were. I didn’t doubt it. I knew it would take a lot of work. I knew we had the opportunity to be really, really good.”

Returning for the 2023-2023 season, Lewis mentioned, are rising juniors Ariella Henigan and Diane Jackson, along with rising sophomore Danielle Brooks, who broke the Lady Broncos’ single-season record for three-pointers made with more than 100 makes.

“We have a lot to feel cautiously optimistic about and we got a lot of young kids in our program who are extremely talented who are going to get more of an opportunity to play as well,” Lewis said. “We think we have a chance to be really, really good. Of course, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of work. The kids have to be committed to the process and committed to putting winning above everything else.”

Looking ahead, Lewis has more goals that he wants to accomplish at Kenwood, such as winning 500 career games (he currently sits at 440 victories) and winning a state championship. 

However, he’s most proud of helping his players reach their potential and earn scholarships. Players from his last two graduating classes have earned basketball scholarships from the University of Maryland, Alabama State University, Loyola University Chicago, Clark Atlanta University, and University of Illinois-Springfield. 

He said player development is something that is emphasized on a daily basis with special attention on basketball IQ and overall knowledge of the game.

“Players can’t be successful if you don’t help them grow. Most of the players I’m getting are 13, 14 years old,” he said. “My biggest challenge, and this is the thing that I always want players to hold me accountable for, is, I tell them: ‘My job is to make you a better player. At the end of four years if you’re the same player with the same strengths and the same weaknesses. I didn’t do my job.'”

is a freelance contributor for The TRiiBE.