Bill Rozak

L ewayne Grant moved to Columbia in 2015. He wanted to be as far away from his Florida home as possible.

He wanted to be a good, long distance from the violence and drugs that were prevalent in his Lincoln Park neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He wanted to create his own legacy.

And basketball was his ticket.

Grant this year finished one of the most decorated basketball careers for any Columbia College Claim Jumper.

He earned All-Central Valley Conference first team honors, was runner up for MVP, made the CVC defensive team and was the first All-State player at Columbia since before the start of the third millennium.

Grant capped his time in Columbia recently by signing with the Sonoma State Seawolves, a division II college in Rohnert Park. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound guard will play on full scholarship which covers about $23,000.

“It was like a family out there. I built so many relationships,” Grant said, speaking by phone from his grandma’s (Juanita Champion) house in Ft. Lauderdale. “I can’t thank my teammates, the faculty, Coach Franny (Rick Francis) and coach (Rob) Hoyt and his family for being my alternate family. I’d definitely do it all over again.”

Relationship between Hoyt and Grant was like posies and pitchforks

Grant met Hoyt at a showcase in Florida. Hoyt was the last coach “at the door” on the first day. But Grant saw that Hoyt previously had recruited players from Florida and immediately felt a good vibe.

The good vibes went both ways. Hoyt knew about two minutes into the first session on Day 1 there was something he liked.

“He had the ‘It’ factor,” Hoyt said. “I loved how he talked, played, his mannerisms and we connected while we talked.”

On Day 2, Hoyt made his move.

“Coach Rob immediately took me to the side,” Grant said. “As the conversation went on, I felt a bond grow and I already knew I’d be a Claim Jumper.”

While they bonded quickly at the showcase, it wasn’t the same across the country when practice began.

“Growing up, I put myself in a shell,” Grant said. “When I got there, I was in that shell. I just wanted to practice. I was so hurt by past experiences, I didn’t trust anyone.”

Grant told Hoyt he didn’t want a relationship off the court. He just wanted to be coached.

“I told him you’re going to look back on this day and be glad I ignored that,” Hoyt said. “It’s gonna happen.”

Grant had a difficult time adjusting but told himself he would try to give it a chance.

Once Grant saw Hoyt was looking out for his best interests and “had his back” the relationship blossomed. By not giving up, Hoyt showed Grant he was “genuine.”

“He went from being a challenge his freshman year to being an extension of the coaching staff in his sophomore season,” Hoyt said. “Once he trusted me, his jump was more of a giant leap. I think it’s pretty special. It’s something you don’t get with every player.”

Grant was a high priority for Sonoma State coaches

The Seawolves this season made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years. They lost in the regional quarterfinals on Friday, March 10, in La Jolla, a seaside community in San Diego.

On Monday, March 13, Sonoma State head coach Pat Fuscaldo and associate head coach Rich Shayewitz were in Columbia to visit Grant.

“As soon as they lost, they wanted to come see me,” Grant said. “I had someone else to let in. Man, words can’t explain how much that meant to me.”

For the season, Grant was seventh in the CVC in scoring (16.8 points per game), second in assists (5.5), third in steals (1.7), fifth in assists to turnovers (2.1-1) and he hit 35 percent of his 3-point attempts.

“They made it clear he was their top priority,” Hoyt said. “He’s getting a full scholarship and an on-campus job. They were the No. 1 defensive team in the country last year, he’ll be a perfect fit.”

Grant is planning to major in kinesiology and hopes to play basketball professionally overseas, in Israel particularly, when he graduates.

A night at the Oscars

“And the award goes to Lewayne Grant!”

The Columbia star wants to give thanks to everyone that helped him get to where he is today. He’s treating his scholarship for higher learning and athletics like it’s an Oscar award.

He doesn’t want to forget anybody from the community he grew to love and treated him well.

“I want to thank the little Jumpers all the way to the veteran Jumpers, Coach (Dustin) Scholl and my high school coaches, Coach Brown, Coach Glenn and Coach Wag for believing in me. And my oldest brother Tavaris Nance for inspiring me to accomplish more than he did and pave the way by showing me firsthand that the world has so much to offer.”