One of the greatest basketball players in Illinois State history, didn’t play high school basketball.
“She never played high school basketball,” said former Illinois State women’s basketball coach Jill Hutchison. “She learned basketball in the playgrounds and projects in Peoria, playing with the guys. Never played a stick of organized basketball until she came to Illinois State.”
Then, Charlotte Lewis launched a hall of fame career. The girl who grew up in Peoria’s Taft Homes grew to be 6-2.
She was long, lean, and athletic. Lewis helped her teams win 77 games between 1974-78.
She became the face of Illinois State women’s athletics as women’s sports were coming into their own.
“At a time when it was starting to boom, females getting the chance to be a part of collegiate
athletics, she was a step above,” said former ISU teammate Beth Landes-Ehresman. “A phenomenal player.”
And she had the look.
“Because of her height and size back in the early 70’s, the afro was the style,” said Hutchison, who recruited Lewis to ISU. “It made Charlotte look even bigger. She was intimidating to opponents.”
She made the U.S. Olympic team in 1976, the first year women’s basketball was a gold medal sport. She brought a silver medal back to Illinois State, the same place she had her jersey retired in 2002.
A few years before her number was retired, Lewis returned to school to get her degree in criminal justice.
On March 3, she heads into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame.
“Charlotte could play now and could dominate,” said Hutchison. “There’s no difference in 40-50 years. She could still dominate a game, she was that good and that talented. She definitely deserves to be among
the very best in the Missouri Valley.”