Imani Lewis photo

Imani Lewis is hoping to do for the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball program what Jonquel Jones did for the George Washington program.

Lewis cited the success Jones enjoyed under UW coach Jonathan Tsipis when he was coaching at GW as a significant reason for committing to the 2018 recruiting class.

Jones played three seasons for Tsipis at GW and helped lift the Colonials to back-to-back Atlantic-10 championships and NCAA tournament berths her last two seasons.

That’s the kind of impact Lewis, a 6-foot-2 forward from Willingboro, New Jersey, would like to have on a UW program that hasn’t been to the tournament since 2010 and hasn’t had a winning record since 2011.

“Most definitely, I think I can help Wisconsin get to the NCAA tournament,” Lewis said. “A lot of people ask me, why would you go there when they haven’t had a lot of success? That’s not what you look at.

“Yes, I want to go to the NCAA tournament and yes, I want to go pro. I just look at coach Tsipis as a great coach and he can help me get to where I want to go.”

That opinion was supported by a recent conversation with Jones, now an All-Star power forward with the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA and the league’s leading rebounder this year.

“It’s nice to hear from somebody who has walked the same path and was in the same footsteps that you are,” Lewis said. “We had the same dream, we had the same vision. She gave me key pointers about basketball and how do you make that dream come true.

“In a way we are similar players. I just like the energy that Jonquel Jones has for the game. Every time she steps on the court she will go hard and give everything she has. That’s how I am. I’m fired up for the game. I have a passion for the sport and I see the same thing in Jonquel Jones.”

Lewis averaged 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocks as a junior at Life Center Academy in Burlington, New Jersey. She is ranked as the No. 39 prospect nationally by Prospects Nation.

“Lewis plays both inside and facing the basket for both her school and club teams,” analyst Brandon Clay of PeachStateBasketball.com said. “She does have range on her jumper and mobility, which could make her into a stretch 4 with range to the 3-point line during her time in Madison.

“Lewis’ length to block shots makes her valuable defensively along the frontline. Her potential impact for the Badgers is heightened if Lewis is able to consistently hit the faceup jumper as well as being active around the rim.”

Lewis, who was first recruited by Tsipis while he was still at GW, chose UW from a long list of suitors that came down to finalists that included Miami, St. John’s and Minnesota.

She joins a recruiting class that includes: Carmen Backes, a 6-1 wing from Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom, Minnesota; Jasmine Hale, a 5-9 guard from Glen Este High School near Cincinnati; and Diamond Bragg, a 5-7 guard from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

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Dennis Punzel covers Wisconsin Badgers volleyball, women's basketball for the Wisconsin State Journal.