CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – On the court, Team Rio guard Scottie Lewis looks the part of five-star prospect.
The 6-foot-4 New Jersey native’s athleticism is evident as he locks down an opponent on defense, leaps, spins and recovers in time to block a shot with his off hand.
On the box score, though, Lewis’ prowess is not always as evident. His contributions tend to be across the board without elite production in any one category.
“He’s almost a better college player than he is a high school player, because that’s almost something that’s not looked upon as a positive,” said Team Rio coach Mike Rice, the former Rutgers head coach. “Like he’s getting people open shots, and sometimes he shouldn’t be. He should be shooting. But at the next level that turns out OK because you’re going to have more elite talent surrounding him.”
In the two spring stops on the Under Armour circuit, Lewis averaged 10.5 points per game. In June, he was among the first group cut from USA Basketball’s U18 team training camp in advance of the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
“Being cut from the USA team and not making the first or second cuts kind of killed me,” Lewis said. “As soon as I got home from playing that night, at midnight, I went right to the gym and got shots up, worked on my handle for three hours and went to bed at 3 a.m. Woke back up and went right back at it the next day.”
Rice has seen a positive difference in Lewis since being cut from Team USA.
247Sports listed him as one of the standouts at the NBA Players’ Association Top 100 Camp just a couple weeks later. In five games at the Under Armour Challenge last week, Lewis increased his scoring, averaging 13.8 points to go with 3.4 rebounds and two assists per game.
“I proved myself at the NBA top 100 camp, and I proved myself here,” Lewis said after Rio’s final game at the Challenge. “People say I have all the offers and I can totally relax. That’s not my mindset. My main goal is to play in the NBA. I don’t work out for the next tournament or the next game.”
That mindset has been key in Lewis becoming one of the top targets for elite programs across the country despite his sometimes pedestrian scoring numbers.
Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, Florida, Stanford, Harvard and St. John’s are all still in the running. Lewis has two official visits tentatively planned for the fall: Florida (Sept. 8) and Kentucky (Sept. 29).
Whichever school lands his commitment will welcome a player who seems fit to play alongside other top talent.
“Defensively, he’s an outlier: Someone who actually cares just as much about the defensive end as the offense,” Rice said. “I can think of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from St. Patrick’s School (in New Jersey), who went to Kentucky, somebody in that same mentality. He is a warrior and somebody who you cannot kind of put a stat on what he does for his teammates both offensively and defensively.”
John Calipari’s track record with athletic guards like John Wall, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk has piqued Lewis’ interest.
“They give them that confidence to kind of let them be those leaders,” he said. “I think I’m a leader myself. If you have a bad game or a good game, I think I’m always a leader, always vocal. I think Coach Calipari would have a good connection and relationship because he has experience with players like myself. He could take my game to a whole new level.”
If Lewis can consistently perform offensively like he did at the Top 100 camp or when he contributed 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting in a Friday game at the Under Armour Challenge, he could prove his current ranking (No. 9 in the 247Sports composite rankings) in the 2019 class is too low.
But even as a pass-first, defense-focused guard, it is likely Lewis would thrive in Calipari’s system or with any number of teams built to assemble as much young talent as possible.
“I’m a five-star player, whatever, top-10, but you’ve got to do the little things to win,” Lewis said. “I don’t really care about being ranked high. … I’m still going to be the person that I am, I’m still going to work as hard because I know I have an ultimate goal. I know those little things are going to separate me from those other five-star guys, those other top-10 guys.”