Kira Lewis, one of the top backcourt players in the recruiting class of 2019, is expected to be on UK’s campus this weekend for an unofficial visit.
This won’t be Lewis’ first trip to Lexington, but the circumstances will be a little different for the Alabama native this time around.
Three summers ago, Lewis came to Kentucky to take part in one of John Calipari’s basketball camps. The incoming recruiting class that year featured Isaiah Briscoe and Skal Labissiere, and fan favorite Tyler Ulis was back in town to prepare for his sophomore season.
Lewis, now a top recruit himself, still remembers that time fondly.
“I’ve just been a Kentucky fan since I was little. I just wanted to go up there and see how it was,” he told the Herald-Leader. “It was a great campus. And a great camp overall. I looked up to guys like John Wall, De’Aaron Fox. People like Derrick Rose, even though he didn’t play at Kentucky. Cal has just had great guards, and he puts guys in the league, so it’s hard to go against a team like Kentucky.”
That made it a memorable day when UK assistant coach Kenny Payne gave Lewis a call after watching him play during the first weekend of the Nike EYBL season earlier this spring.
The 6-foot-2 guard from Toney, Ala., has been one of the stars of the Nike circuit so far, averaging 20.4 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 35 percent from three-point range.
Lewis’ stellar play also earned him a late invitation to this past week’s USA Basketball U18 training camp led by Kansas’ Bill Self, one of the other coaches recruiting him.
He didn’t make it past the first round of cuts Sunday morning, but Lewis — one of the smallest players in attendance — still had plenty of bright spots. He used his quickness to disrupt on defense and create offensively, gliding to the basket for layups and dishing off to teammates in creative ways.
His versatility in the backcourt is what has drawn UK’s coaches to his recruitment, which includes scholarship offers from Kansas, Louisville, Alabama, Auburn and many other top programs.
Kentucky, of course, often has several talented guards in the same backcourt — and that’s expected to be the case again two seasons from now — something that appeals to Lewis.
“Oh yes, sir,” he said of that potential setup. “I play on the ball and off the ball. That would free me up to get open shots and get my teammates involved.”
Before he can truly consider UK as a college destination, he’ll first need a scholarship offer from the Wildcats, and that could come on this weekend’s trip.
Kentucky already has a commitment from five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey, and the Cats are recruiting Cole Anthony, Bryan Antoine and Jalen Lecque from the class of 2019, with backcourt returnees from this season’s team also a possibility.
Lewis has earned a spot in that conversation, however. He’s been one of the fastest-rising recruits in the class — moving up to No. 25 overall with five-star status in the latest 247Sports rankings — and he said Payne has compared his speed to that of Wall and Fox, two of the quickest players in program history.
The 17-year-old prospect has already had some conversations with Calipari, too, and he’s looking to strengthen that relationship this weekend.
A UK scholarship offer would make it a dream visit.
“It would be a big deal,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get Kentucky offers. It’s one of the greatest schools in the country. I liked them when I was younger and everything, so it would be great.”