Women’s Basketball hosts a pre-season open practice with coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis


Jalen Stubbs / The Fourth Estate

Basketball is looking great this year for the Patriots as they continue their pre-season practices, wasting no floor-time. The team held their first open practice of this year on Sept. 18 at Eagle Bank Arena.

This year, they will have the opportunity to be mentored under four-time Coach of the Year Vanessa Blair-Lewis. After leading Bethune-Cookman to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019, she then made her way from Daytona Beach, Florida to Fairfax, becoming the next face of the Mason Women’s Basketball franchise. 

“It’s been exceptional,” Blair-Lewis explained. “I’ve been embraced completely by the athletic department, university [and] President Washington. As you know, Bethune-Cookman was an HBCU, so it was diverse in and of itself, so stepping onto this campus — I think they say [it’s] the best kept secret, but the secret is out. So it has been a wonderful welcome to be here, to be among one of the best and brightest students and athletes.”

Winning for this team doesn’t always mean winning games. Blair-Lewis explained how they try to take every day and find a win in that day — everything can’t always be negative. 

“It could be because I got an 89 on a quiz I struggled studying for, or I won today because my family at home is doing well and maybe they weren’t at first,” she explains. 

Everything that they compete against, the goal is to find something they took out of it as a win. 

Blair-Lewis has many plans for how she will carry her team to be outstanding for the 2021-2022 season. She explained how everything starts with the players.

“A lot of coaches may think it starts with the X’s and O’s, [but] plays don’t win the games — it’s the players that run plays that win games. Our investment is always into the player,” Blair-Lewis stated. “My coaching staff — I was really blessed that we all came here together and so there’s a sense of normalcy and culture that we all know each other, we know how each other works. But we all know that the basic premise is that we invest in our students.”

Coach Blair-Lewis always reminds everyone that the staff should invest in these individuals as athletes — as human beings that are chosen to play a sport that they love, and that she loves coaching. 

One of the most valuable lessons Blair-Lewis is teaching her players is to make the most out of what they have. 

“If you live not knowing when you’re going to take your last breath, what are you going to do with the time that you’ve been blessed with?” she asked.