It was a matter of when — not if — star high school basketball recruits Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis would receive scholarship offers from John Calipari.
That question was settled Sunday, when Calipari and UK assistant coach Tony Barbee visited the New Jersey teammates and extended offers to play for the Wildcats.
Antoine and Lewis — two of the top five prospects in the class of 2019 — have been on Kentucky’s recruiting radar for some time now. Calipari watched them play as high school sophomores, the duo took a joint unofficial visit to Lexington in May, and UK’s coaches were regular spectators for their games on the Under Armour circuit this summer.
Barbee’s first stop on the first day of the fall recruiting period last weekend was to see Antoine and Lewis at an open gym.
Antoine — a 6-foot-4 combo guard — is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 3 overall player in the class.
“He has great court vision,” 247 national analyst Andrew Slater told the Herald-Leader recently. “The question becomes: ‘What position is he at the next level?’ They want to make him a point guard, and if he is, it’s obviously a tremendous strength to be 6-4, 6-5 with that kind of freakish athleticism. He is an elite athlete. He has tremendous intelligence. He is probably more skilled at this point than Scottie is. He just does not present the athleticism that he has, as opposed to Scottie.”
Lewis — a 6-5 wing — is the No. 5 player in the class.
“He’s a freakish athlete,” Slater said. “Where he’s differentiated himself from other athletes we’ve seen is that he’s now developed skill. He hasn’t been reliant on that athleticism, where so many other young kids just want to put on a show for the audience. He’s learned how to shoot the three much better. He’s learned to shoot the mid-range much better. He’s developed his handle. And he’s now taken it to the third step: ‘How do I balance the blessings I have as an athlete with that improved skill level?’
“Some people get to that second level and try to just show you how much their skill level has improved. … He’s now finding that tremendous balance, and that’s why he’s one of the top players in this class.”
Lewis and Antoine are high school teammates, as well as teammates on the Under Armour circuit with Team Rio, which was coached this past summer by former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice.
The two players are also close friends off the court and have taken several recruiting visits together. Duke, Florida, Louisville and Kansas are among the others on their list.
“They’re amazing,” Rice said over the summer. “In this day and age, everybody wants attention. They’re understanding that they both complement each other so well. And that when one does well, the other one’s going to do well. That’s so unique and rare in today’s younger players. It’s refreshing, because they’re just as happy when one of them scores as the other guy. It’s fun to coach that.”
Antoine averaged 20 points per game for Ranney School (N.J.) as a sophomore, while Lewis averaged 16.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
Kentucky has been viewed as an early favorite for Lewis, specifically, and he had abundant praise for Calipari and the Wildcats’ program during an interview with the Herald-Leader and other reporters this summer.
Lewis said that his long-term goal is getting to the NBA, and he mentioned one school that has been doing that better than any other in recent years.
“Definitely Kentucky,” he said. “They breed athletes. They breed people who have that drive and that heart and that passion who want to — not only make it to the NBA — but (excel) in the NBA.”
Antoine and Lewis join Memphis-area basketball stars D.J. Jeffries and James Wiseman as the first group of players from the 2019 recruiting class to land scholarship offers from Calipari, who offered Jeffries and Wiseman on Friday.