Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said yesterday he is slightly concerned about possibly health-related inconsistencies in the play of sophomore forward Derrick Lewis, who suffers from congenital high blood pressure.
Driesell said at his weekly news conference that he has noticed the 6-foot-7 forward has been markedly inconsistent in back-to-back games when the team does not have more than a day to rest. He added that it may be a result of his high blood pressure condition, which requires medication.
"He seems to have sort of a lull," Driesell said. "I don't know if it's a health thing or what. Maybe its the blood pressure or maybe the medication makes him groggy. I never noticed it until the other day, and then I got to thinking.
"It just seems like he's off his game a little, so I called a doctor friend, and maybe we'll have his blood checked or something. Maybe I'm imagining it. But we've got to get him playing well."
Lewis would not comment on Driesell's speculation, other than to say: "I know I've been inconsistent." Asked if his health might be a problem, he said no. He averages 7.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. He also leads the team in blocks, with 55, and steals, with 29.
Driesell said Lewis would have a blood test next week when he makes one of his regular visits to Dr. Sacred Bodison, a Maryland team physician. Lewis has his blood pressure checked at least once a week, and daily when physicians and trainers deem it necessary. Trainer Frank Grimaldi monitors him throughout the week, and also monitors his medication.
For whatever reasons, Lewis has showed noticeable declines in performance in weeks when Maryland has had a heavy schedule. When the Terrapins played Villanova and Notre Dame within two days, on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3, Lewis had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the first game, but only five points and no rebounds in the second.
Inconsistency was evident again this weekend, when Maryland was forced to play North Carolina late Thursday night in Chapel Hill, then return home for Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon. He had 10 points and 10 rebounds in a 77-72 upset of the Tar Heels, but had two points and four rebounds in a 77-70 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Lingering fatigue might become a problem when the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament begins next week. The Terrapins (15-12 overall and 4-8 in the ACC) could play three games in three days.
Driesell said that, according to Bodison, it's possible that Lewis may have a low potassium count after games, which would improve with a higher intake of fruit. Deficiencies in diet or rest also might have something to do with any potential problem. But Driesell added that he does not consider the inconsistency necessarily serious and that it won't jeopardize Lewis' playing time.
"It's not a big deal," Driesell said. "I'm just guessing, really."
Lewis was first discovered to have high blood pressure last year when he went through the physical examination administered to all incoming freshmen players.
He has not missed a game because of his condition, nor has he demonstrated any other health problems. He is the only Maryland player who has started all 27 games this year. He averages 33 minutes, second on the team to Len Bias, who, not surprisingly, yesterday was named ACC player of the week.