Alabama point guard Kira Lewis Jr. served as a punt returner early in his high school career. He nearly beat his mother, Natasha, in a foot race at age 5. And his mother was a standout sprinter in high school.
Yes, Lewis lives by the motto speed kills, according to his father, Kira Lewis Sr. Naturally, speed is only one ingredient in being standout NBA point guard/floor general. But you can’t teach speed.
“My dad’s side of the family was very athletic, but I have to say my speed came from my mom’s side,’’ Lewis said on a Zoom call Friday. “She ran track. All her family members ran some sporting event. They love to run.”
The Knicks were so smitten with Lewis’ speed they jetted to Miami last month to use one of their workout slots, though No. 8 is considered a reach for the fast-rising Alabama sophomore.
Lewis, considered the fastest player in the draft, said he tried to show the Knicks not just the lightning.
“Getting to the rim, finishing over length and showing my shot as well,’’ Lewis said.
“I try to bring every aspect I can whether it’s ball handing, passing, shooting, defense, rebounding,. Anything I can do to help the team. I’m trying to get better [in] being more physical with my size and handling bigger defenders, cutting to the basket and making great reads.”
Lewis averaged 18.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds on 36-percent shooting from 3, but he is hardly the finished product. He’s still just 19 despite playing two years of college.
His coach at Alabama, Nate Oats, recently told The Post he expertly ran his pro-style, fast-paced offense but admitted defense will be an issue at the outset despite improvement. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is all about defense.
“He realized his speed can be a positive on defense, too,’’ Oats said. “He got better, but still not where he needs to be.”
Scouts are concerned most about strength. Lewis, holed up in a downtown Miami high-rise apartment during most of the pandemic, was put on an eating-as-much-as-you-can diet. The 6-foot-3 point guard weighed in the low 160s late in the Alabama season and now is close to 180 after ingesting six small meals a day (mainly shakes, fruits and vegetables) as part of a new training regimen.
He’s been compared to former Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, the No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft who is having only modest success with the Cavaliers. Sexton was taken one pick ahead of the Knicks, who took Kevin Knox at 9.
“I think he’s quicker than Collin,’’ one Western Conference scout said. “He has elite sped and quickness. I believe he can shoot and make plays. But he needs to get stronger. He will be able to get on the court this next season for sure.”
The Knicks are forever in search for an elite point guard. Is Lewis is the guy, even if they trade up for him? He’s from the small town of Hazel Green, Ala. — a different planet from Gotham.
His agent, Aaron Turner, who also reps Knox, said he thinks Lewis can go as high as No. 6. Teams ahead of him, the Bulls (No. 4), Orlando (No. 6) and Pistons (No. 7) worked him out, too.
“It would be great to play for one of the more historic organizations,’’ Lewis said of the Knicks. “It’s a big city, but I know what I’m coming to do — work as hard as I can, do my job, do something I love to do, which is compete to win, get better and be the best person and teammate I can be and take whatever organization I go to the next level.”
Thibodeau, Knicks general manager Scott Perry and senior VP William Wesley took Lewis out to dinner in Miami. Lewis seemed just as thrilled meeting “World Wide Wes,” the ultimate NBA insider, as Thibodeau.
“When I met Coach Wes, it was a great honor,’’ Lewis said. “I’ve heard about him so many times. Just to be face to face with him. He’s a really good guy. He likes to joke and have fun, but he told me about getting my degree and I’m working on it now. He said take advantage of the opportunity and really get ready for what’s coming at you because it’s a different world.”