Nearly a year ago, Scottie Lewis became one of the first basketball recruits in the class of 2019 to earn a scholarship offer from the Kentucky Wildcats.
This weekend, Lewis — a 6-foot-5 wing from Hazlet, N.J. — is scheduled to be on UK’s campus for his official visit. John Calipari will take a break from his fall recruiting travels to show the five-star prospect what UK’s coaching staff is hoping will be his future home, and Lewis will get an up-close look at what might be the No. 1 team in the country going into this season.
A consensus top-15 recruit in the 2019 class, Lewis is a hard-working, super athletic talent who specializes on the defensive end and is often lauded as a team-first player.
Former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice has coached Lewis on the Under Armour circuit the past two summers and praises his approach to the game at every opportunity.
“He’s unbelievable. And his passion is unbelievable and so fun to be around,” Rice told the Herald-Leader this year. “Whether it’s a 7 o’clock practice. Whether it’s the fourth game on a Sunday against a team you’re really not interested in playing. He’s incredible. He’s always on. And he always has passion, he always has energy for himself and his teammates. So it’s one of those things where you’re not only getting the talent and the athleticism, you’re getting the complete package.
“It’s different. Being around the AAU, the grassroots — everybody’s always looking at themselves. Scottie continues looking at his teammates, looking at other players. He’s incredible with that aspect.”
Lewis has trimmed his list of schools to UK, Duke, Florida, St. John’s, Stanford and Villanova. He took his first official visit to Florida this past weekend, comes to Lexington this weekend and has scheduled an official visit for St. John’s in early October, leaving him with two more such trips.
This week, the Herald-Leader asked six of the most respected recruiting analysts in the country — Eric Bossi and Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Evan Daniels and Jerry Meyer of 247Sports, Jeff Borzello of ESPN, and Andrew Slater of The Athletic — to handicap Lewis’ recruitment. Specifically, they were asked to name the star prospect’s three most likely destinations, in order. Here are the results of that poll:
3. St. John’s
The Red Storm showed up on four of the six experts’ ballots and just barely edged out Villanova for the No. 3 spot on this list.
St. John’s is considered the local contender — its campus is about 50 miles from Lewis’ hometown — and the program has made a valiant effort in this recruitment. In an interview with the Herald-Leader in April, the Jersey native specifically mentioned St. John’s and the idea of teaming up with other top recruits to restore the once-proud program to its past greatness. The Red Storm have two Final Fours on their resume but have not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000 and have not yet had a winning season in three years under head coach Chris Mullin. The program has zero commitments so far for the class of 2019.
Note: Villanova, which showed up on three of six ballots, recently landed a commitment from Lewis’ friend and high school/AAU teammate Bryan Antoine, though the two players have repeatedly said they would make independent recruiting decisions.
The Wildcats were the clear-cut No. 2 team among our recruiting experts.
Kentucky extended a scholarship offer to Lewis and Antoine on the same day last fall, and Calipari, assistant coach Tony Barbee and the rest of the staff watched them closely throughout their junior season of high school and this past spring and summer on the Under Armour circuit.
Lewis has often spoken highly of Calipari’s coaching and UK’s program, especially the opportunity to play alongside several other top talents.
“I feel like if I can surround myself by those kind of guys that go to Kentucky — it’s a place where I’ll shine at, because I am such a leader and a captain,” Lewis told the Herald-Leader. “It’s players that would love to play with me and I would love to play with.”
Lewis has visited Lexington before, but this trip — a 48-hour visit where he’s the center of attention — will be different, and UK probably needs to make a great impression.
One of the analysts who placed Kentucky at No. 2 on his list noted that he sees a wide gulf between the second and third spots — giving the Wildcats a legitimate shot in this recruitment — but the overall sentiment was that Calipari and company have some ground to make up.
The overwhelming choice among the national recruiting experts as the ultimate destination for Lewis, the Gators’ program has been picking up steam as the consensus favorite for a while now.
The Gators are clearly in a good spot.
Lewis wrapped up his official visit to Gainesville on Sunday morning, and he’s been there several times in the past. His Under Armour team director, Brian Klatsky, is a UF alum and major Gators fan (though he has said he does not donate money to the university).
Lewis was accompanied on this past weekend’s trip by Klatsky and his son, class of 2019 guard Alex Klatsky, who was also taking his official visit to Gainesville. The younger Klatsky and Lewis are close friends, as well as teammates in high school and on the Under Armour circuit.
Alex Klatsky committed to the Gators on Tuesday evening.
Florida also has a recent commitment from five-star point guard Tre Mann.
Lewis said over the summer that he was more likely to wait until the late signing period in April than choose a college early, but that might no longer be the case.
One of the recruiting experts in this week’s poll told the Herald-Leader that he expects Lewis to call an end to his recruitment after the UK trip and choose either the Wildcats or the Gators sometime in the next couple of weeks.
The fall signing period is scheduled for Nov. 14-21.