The grind of the spring/summer basketball season makes college visits during that time period a relatively rare occurrence for high school recruits.
In addition to their play on the shoe company-sponsored circuits, the nation’s top prospects attend various camps that have them crisscrossing the country, and they sometimes travel to compete in international events.
Despite their busy schedules, the class of 2019 duo of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis found the time to take a joint recruiting visit to Kentucky in early May. Antoine and Lewis are teammates at the high school level in New Jersey, play for the same Under Armour-affiliated team, and also happen to be two of the very best prospects in their class.
It’s still early in their recruitments, but both players have spoken highly of John Calipari and his UK program, and getting the duo on campus during the initial stage of the process certainly won’t hurt the Wildcats’ chances.
Antoine — a 6-foot-4 combo guard — is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 3 overall prospect in the class, and 247Sports analyst Andrew Slater, who has closely followed the early careers of both recruits, said he was one of the best players on the Under Armour circuit by the end of the summer.
“He has great court vision,” Slater told the Herald-Leader. “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.”
If Antoine does indeed evolve into a point guard, “his value goes through the roof,” Slater said. If he’s more of an off-the-ball player at the next level, his standing might decrease a little, but he still has the abilities and upside of a top-flight prospect.
“His shooting has improved to the degree that he can play either position at the next level,” Slater said. “So that versatility is also going to be a value.”
Lewis — a 6-5 wing — was one of the most exciting players in the country this summer.
The aforementioned athleticism is the first thing that jumps out about his game, but that’s not what defines him as a player.
“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.”
247Sports ranks Lewis as the No. 4 overall player for 2019 — one spot behind Antoine — and Lewis is also a difference-maker on the defensive end.
In the games that the Herald-Leader watched him play this summer, Lewis was an intense defender, eager to guard the opposing team’s best offensive player and often incredibly effective at it.
Slater noted Lewis’ ability to chase down opponents in transition and block their shots at the rim.
“That’s a tremendous momentum-shifter for a team,” he said. “Your star player is a legitimate two-way player who doesn’t really care if he scores a lot of points, necessarily. He’s very competitive in terms of just winning.”
Sounds like someone who Calipari would like to see in Lexington, and that could very well happen down the road. Though UK has not yet extended any verbal scholarship offers for the 2019 class, Antoine and Lewis are both expected to be among the Cats’ top targets.
The Herald-Leader has been told that UK could be considered a “co-favorite” for Lewis with a decent chance of landing Antoine, as well. Duke has already offered both players. So has Florida, which is the alma mater of the duo’s AAU team director. Kansas, Maryland and Arizona are among the others that have offered both.
New No. 1 in 2019
The recent reclassification of R.J. Barrett to 2018 opened a spot at the top of the rankings for the 2019 class.
Florida big man Vernon Carey has claimed that position, for now.
Carey — a 6-foot-9, 245-pound prospect from Fort Lauderdale — averaged 22 points and eight rebounds per game as a sophomore last season and was one of the top post players on the Nike circuit over the summer.
Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports rank him as the No. 1 player in the 2019 class.
“He’s got legitimate size for the position, and he’s also really skilled,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader recently. “This is a kid that’s got great hands. He can score on the block. He can face up and make jump shots. He’s a good area rebounder. And he really excelled at the USA Basketball under-16 event and had a really strong showing.”
Carey led that U16 squad in scoring with 14.0 points over 15.4 minutes per game, winning a FIBA gold medal with the squad. UK assistant coach Joel Justus traveled to Argentina in June to watch that team play, and other members of the Wildcats’ coaching staff watched Carey later in the summer.
Duke, Kansas and North Carolina all extended scholarship offers to Carey over a three-day span earlier this month. Miami, where his father was a standout offensive lineman, is also expected to be among his top schools.
▪ Rivals.com ranks Nigerian center Charles Bassey as the No. 1 player in the 2019 class, with Carey in the No. 2 spot. Bassey, who played last season at a school in Texas, is expected to play for the new Aspire Academy in Louisville this season. Aspire’s players will attend classes at DeSales High School but play their own national schedule. UK has not yet shown extensive interest in his recruitment.
Another to watch
UK’s coaches have also been keeping a close eye on class of 2019 standout Matthew Hurt, who averaged 29.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game for John Marshall High (Minn.) last season.
Hurt — a versatile, 6-9 forward — plays his summer ball on the Adidas circuit and was the first prospect in his class to receive a Duke scholarship offer. He’s the No. 5 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2019.
Hurt appeared on Minnesota’s1500 ESPN radio station last week and said he has scholarship offers from pretty much every big-time program. Except one.
“I know Kentucky hasn’t offered me yet,” Hurt told 1500 ESPN. “That’s like the only big one. I’m just going to keep working and try to get that.”
He’ll get a chance to have a sitdown with John Calipari soon.
Hurt is planning to visit UK, Louisville and Indiana during a three-campus swing through the area in late September.
Describing himself as more of a ‘3’ right now, Hurt could ultimately fit the mold of the “positionless” player that Calipari has been talking about so much recently. He has the skill and size to play down low but also possesses the finesse to step out on the perimeter. Hurt could still grown a couple of inches, too.
“I’m just trying to get bigger, stronger, quicker, faster, just to guard 1-5,” he said. “If you have a person guarding 1-5, it’s pretty hard to get good shots up.”
This is by no means an “official” list of UK’s top targets for the class of 2019, but it is interesting that the official Kentucky basketball twitter account (@KentuckyMBB ) is following 10 players from that group (as of Wednesday morning).
So far, there has been no confirmation of any UK scholarship offers going out to any players from the 2019 class, but Twitter history would indicate that some of the players mentioned above will eventually end up on UK’s offer list. All of those prospects are ranked in the top 20 nationally.
It’s also worth noting that the only recruits from the 2018 class that the program’s official Twitter account is following are the ones that have UK scholarship offers.