Lewin Continues WVU Connection With Son’s Commitment
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It seems once late every decade, Brian Lewin comes out of nowhere into our lives and brings with him a feel good story.
It happened late in the 1990s when he wandered from Brooklyn, N.Y., unannounced via junior college in Texas into our lives to play basketball for Gale Catlett and become a key, although mostly unrecognized, role in one of the great moments in West Virginia basketball history.
Then, late in the 2000s, he again sneaked into our lives again as he finally put a cap (and gown) on a life that had been rescued by basketball as he completed his degree at WVU.
And now, just Thursday, there he was again as his son, Isaiah Cotrell, a four-star recruit out of Las Vegas basketball power Bishop Gorman High School announced via Intagram he and his 6-foot-10, 215-pound frame he had verbally committed to play at WVU begining in 2020.
At first, this was just another non-binding commitment for a year from now, a name of a faceless prep player who may or may not come to WVU and may or may not become a big time player, until you realized this was the inspirational Brian Lewin’s son.
You remembered having written about him a decade back, a story that began:
MORGANTOWN — Too often these days college athletics stands for all that is wrong in a world gone haywire — greed-driven coaches, late-night bar brawls, recruiting scandals, one-and-done professionals, academic cheating.
There is almost not a day that goes by where the newspapers, radio talk shows or 24-hour cable networks aren’t talking of a rape accusation, a stolen TV or a coach breaking recruiting rules.
It then went on to tell how Lewin was the refreshing break from that and still does, coming at a time when not much really has changed in college basketball, about how, as he put it:
“Basketball saved my life.”
He was back in town to get that degree after having escaped what were mean streets in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of hard-working parents of five children who did all they could do for their children but who were always swimming upstream.
“There were things I wanted that I couldn’t have,” he said, recalling how he started to slip into the ‘hood. “I could figure out only one way to get them, by shoplifting. So, at the age of nine, I went into a store and stole some jeans and hoodies. Once I did it and got away with it, it was an easy life to continue.
“The older guys sold drugs. They were our role models. We wanted to be like they were,” Lewin continued. “As a result, they took advantage of us and we became drug dealers, too.”
He admitted he was kicked out of high school and was drifting, but there was something nagging inside him. He had grown six or seven inches and while attending the graduation of a brother at the high school that had kicked him out, the basketball coach called him aside.
He’d never played basketball in an organized setting but was convinced to return to school and began playing the sport in a team setting.
“My entire world changed. All of a sudden I was around different people, people who were talking about going to college. It wasn’t long before my extra-curricular activities changed,” he said.
He wound up in junior college, then came to WVU and in his senior year was on a pretty good team that would finish 24-9 and win its first game in the NCAA Tournament.
But things looked bleak when they were down a point to No. 6 Cincinnati, coached by a fellow named Huggins. With five seconds left, Catlett opted not to call a timeout. The ball would wind up with Jarrod West sinking one of the most dramatic game-winning shots in WVU history.
And now, the story and Lewin legacy continues through Isaiah Cotrell.