By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
What started out as a joke ended up into a benefit netting more than $16,000 for needy children in the Dominican Republic.
That represented contributions from numerous participants in a basketball free-throw shooting contest at a picnic attended by a big crowd from the Suncrest United Methodist Church in Morgantown.
One of the two ministers happened to be the Rev. Junius Lewis, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound basketball center from 1975-1979 at West Virginia University.
Now 56 years old, he proved to his church-goers and numerous others that the man still can play the game. Lewis made an amazing 233 free throws within a half hour. He did so with witnesses on the hoops alongside the church.
Most people in his church membership pledged one dollar for each shot he made from the foul line. Even outsiders who had heard about the benefit, trying to help, also gave money to boost the total.
Those students from the church along with adult chaperones had returned from an enjoyable trip to the Dominican Republic with fond memories, according to the well-known preacher.
“They brought back pictures and stories about making friends while abroad,” he said… “But the way it works there kids that go to school have to wear a uniform.
“So our kids organized the foul- shooting effort. They not only got enough money to outfit six students but also to provide money for uniforms, supplies and other needs of several other groups of kids in the Dominican Republic.”
Lewis added, “So it was a win-win situation for everyone. All of our wonderful, wonderful people rallied behind our kids’ request.”
Lewis, a Richmond, Va., native, said he didn’t count how many free-throws he missed, “but I missed some.”
He said on the terribly hot afternoon of the fund-raising picnic, “I realized that I no longer was a spring chicken.”
He also joked, “Some people just wanted to make a donation for my foul shooting to see if I had any eligibility left to help out my friend (WVU head coach) Bob Huggins.”
A lot of kids themselves took part in this excellent effort on behalf of school children in need of help. “They made their free throws, too,” he noted.
At WVU, he played one season for coach Gale Catlett after spending three years with Joedy Gardner.
Playing in 110 games, the tallest Mountaineer made 259 field goals in 544 attempts (46.7 percent), 186 free throws in 259 attempts (71.8 percent), 470 rebounds, 54 assists, 36 blocked shots, 14 steals, and 694 points.
“I loved playing for Coach Catlett,” Lewis said. “He is a friend of mine to this day.”
He was a team captain as a senior.
A minister for more than 25 years, Junius and wife Rebecca have three children: Junele, Junius III and Jonathan.