INDIANAPOLIS — Kentucky coaches have compared him to De’Aaron Fox. He’s lit up the Nike AAU circuit this spring. New scholarship offers arrive daily. So how is Kira Lewis just barely considered a top-100 recruit by most of the major services?
Simply put, it was an industry-wide oversight, and it will be corrected very shortly.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to evaluate him prior to this spring,” said 247Sports scouting director Evan Daniels, whose site currently ranks Lewis the 96th-best prospect in the Class of 2019. “Now that I have, it’s safe to say he’s due a big bump.”
The 6-foot-3 Lewis ranks sixth in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League in points per game (21.8) and fourth in steals per game (2.6) to go with 3.4 assists per game and 40 percent 3-point shooting through two weekends against some of the best players in America. Kansas just offered him a scholarship, well behind most of the SEC.
Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have already thrown their hats into the ring for the Hazel Green, Ala., native — as have Baylor, Clemson, Connecticut, Indiana, among many others — and now Kentucky is calling.
Wildcats assistant coach Kenny Payne dialed Lewis after a breakout first weekend in the EYBL last month and “was telling me about how he liked my game, my speed, which kind of reminded him of De’Aaron Fox a little bit and John Wall,” Lewis said. “So that was great to hear from him. He puts guys in the league — Coach Cal does and Coach Payne does — and it’s a guard school. They just let their guards play fast, up tempo. It’s great hearing from them.”
Payne told Lewis that Kentucky plans to keep monitoring him this spring and summer. The Wildcats could be forgiven for jumping into his recruitment later than most. John Calipari has been busy trying to hoard all of the 5-star guards in this class.
Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey and Jalen Lecque, all top-15 overall recruits, have UK offers and some interest in reclassifying to play college basketball this fall.
Hagans is already committed to the Cats and widely expected to make that move to 2018. Maxey is considered a heavy UK lean — he’s announcing his commitment Wednesday — and might also enroll early. If both do that, there’s a good chance Lecque goes elsewhere.
Point being, Kentucky will still want to sign a point guard from whatever is left in the 2019 class when the dust settles. Lewis looks like an increasingly good option.
“He has game-changing speed, is a playmaker in transition and has the tools to be a good defender,” Daniels said. “He’s one of the breakout performers of the spring.”
So far, Kentucky has offered 10 players in the Class of 2019: No. 1 James Wiseman (center), No. 2 Vernon Carey (power forward), No. 4 Matthew Hurt (power forward), No. 7 Bryan Antoine (shooting guard), No. 8 Scottie Lewis (small forward), No. 9 Lecque (combo guard), No. 10 Hagans (point guard), No. 13 Maxey (point guard), No. 27 Keion Brooks (small forward) and No. 31 D.J. Jeffries (small forward) — with Hagans and Jeffries committed.
Who might be next? Lewis is an option, as is 6-foot-10 Bam Adebayo clone Aidan Igiehon. But what about Isaiah Stewart? He’s ranked the No. 14 player in the class and passes the eye test at a chiseled 6-foot-8, 243 pounds. He’s averaging 16.1 points and an EYBL-best 10.5 rebounds per game.
Stewart is getting close to cutting down his list of schools — Duke, Michigan State, Indiana, Louisville, Texas, Virginia and Villanova on the long list he’s trying to whittle — but he said it isn’t too late for Kentucky. If the Wildcats offer, he’ll listen.
“Kentucky came up earlier in the school year to visit with me,” the Rochester, N.Y., native said, “but I haven’t done much with them since.”
Even as the Wildcats are in strong early positions with their top two targets in the post, No. 1 and 2 overall Wiseman and Carey, the lack of interest in Stewart so far seems strange. He looks like a player who can make an impact from Day 1 in college and says everything Calipari likes to hear.
Asked to describe his ideal school, “I want to go somewhere where I can develop and grow, be coached and get better,” Stewart said.
Asked whether he has one eye on the NBA, “Oh, no, no,” Stewart said. “What’s weird is some schools pitch the one-and-done to me, but that’s something I’m not really worried about. I’m worried about coming into college and getting better and trying to win some games — hopefully a championship.”
Asked if he wants to be the man in college, “I’ve been in both situations,” Stewart said. “I’ve been in situations where I’m the main guy or I’ve been in situations where I’ve sort of got to share the show. I feel like I’m an easy player to play with.”
So what is Calipari waiting for? Chris Mack certainly couldn’t say. He’s been hot on Stewart’s heels since he was at Xavier and has only intensified the pursuit since taking over as the coach at Kentucky’s rival, Louisville.
“They just went to a bigger stage and they’re still recruiting me hard,” said Stewart, who was asked whether the Cardinals have a real shot at landing him. “I had a really good relationship with them back at Xavier, so yes.”
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