Bryan Antoine is hoping basketball will take him far in his life but when it came time to decide where he was going to play his college ball, he didn’t want it to take him too far.

The 6-foot-5 Ranney School senior revealed Tuesday morning that he is giving his non-binding verbal commitment to play for defending national champion Villanova University.

As a star at Ranney, Antoine has played in front of his parents and younger brother for the past three seasons and the possibility of continuing to play his home games in front of family and friends was one he could not pass up.

“What they have done on the court in the past 3 years is a big factor, obviously,” Antoine said. “They are one of the top dogs (in college basketball) right now and it’s only an hour-and-thirty minutes away from home. I feel like the same people who saw me play in high school will be able to see me in college. Can’t go wrong.”

Antoine delivered the news to Villanova coach Jay Wright and his staff on Monday night.

Bryan Antoine with his father Jean, mother Regine and brother Eyan. (Photo by Mark Brown)

“I’ve been blessed with a lot of offers and got it down to five schools,” Antoine said. “I have to thank the coaches for taking the time out to reach out to me and form a relationship with me. There were a lot of coaches who took time out to text and call me. I can’t say enough about that. I really appreciate that.”

Of Antoine’s final five schools on his list – Villanova, Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Kansas – Villanova is the far-and-away the closest to his home in Monmouth County, N.J. That proximity, as well as the similarities to his current school and team, pushed Villanova over the top in the recruiting process.

“The way the people there appreciate each other, go about school day reminded me a lot of my current situation at Ranney, which I really liked,” Antoine said. “The students there really show they care about the athletes, not just in basketball, but in any sport. It really is like a small community.”

Antoine’s family lived in Matawan for most of his childhood and currently live in Tinton Falls, which is less than 90 miles from the Villanova campus and even closer to the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

“My mom and dad were really patient with me throughout the whole process,” Antoine said. “I would come home nervous because the process was getting to me, and my mom and dad just told me to pray on it. I have to thank them for sticking with me. They didn’t show any favoritism toward any school, they simply told me to go where I saw myself.”

Villanova has won two national championships in the past three seasons under coach Jay Wright and just had four players selected in the 2018 NBA Draft, including three in the first round. Villanova does not have a track record of players who leave school for the NBA after one season but Omari Spellman became the first back in June and Antoine admitted he would like to play well enough to face that decision.

“Being one-and-done is the goal, but I’m not really worried about it,” said Antoine, who is a projected top-five pick in the very-early 2020 Mock Draft via NBADraft.net. “I want to soak in as much as I can from my coaches, try to develop into better player and a better person. My ultimate goal is to make it to the NBA – whether it’s after one year or two years or four years.”

Another factor in Antoine’s decision was Villanova’s early interest in him. Of Antoine’s final five schools, Villanova was the first to reach out to Antoine, which happened at an AAU Tournament in Las Vegas when he was only in eighth grade.

“(Wright) is a great guy, very down to earth,” Antoine said. “He tells you the truth – doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He sees the best in everybody and I think he saw something in me pretty early one. He’ll also always ask how the family is doing. You can tell being around those guys that family means a lot.”

During an unofficial visit to Villanova, Antoine was caught by surprise by one aspect of Wright’s pitch to him – one that Antoine doesn’t think would work on every recruit but was exactly what he wanted to see.

“On my visit, like a lot of times in the past at other places, they showed me highlights of past guards,” Antoine recalled. “On the video, it wouldn’t be the flashy crossover or a dunk; it would be hustle plays, guys getting on the floor, playing for each other, playing as one whole unit. It caught me off guard. That’s exactly the kind of player I try to be and that’s the kind of team I want to play for.”

Antoine is heading into his senior year at Ranney with a chance to make history, both for himself and for his team. The Panthers will be among the preseason favorites to win the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, which no Shore Conference team has ever done.

With one more season resembling the first three of his career, Antoine will also break the Shore Conference’s all-time career scoring record of 2,302 points, held by Norm Caldwell of Croydon Hall. Antoine enters his final year 491 points shy of the record and he has scored at least 538 in each of his three varsity seasons. As much as the silky-smooth, lightning-quick Antoine has been the source of highlight-reel-level plays, he has also been a model of consistency, averaging 20.7 points per game as a freshman, 21.0 as a sophomore and 21.4 as a junior.

Antoine has played his three years of high school for coach Tahj Holden, a former Shore Conference star himself who also played at a national powerhouse. Holden was the center on Maryland’s 2002 National Championship team and his experience came in handy when Antoine sought his counsel.

“Tahj was once in my shoes – a highly-recruited guy from the Shore,” Antoine said. “He just told me to take it easy, don’t be overwhelmed. If I didn’t have him, don’t know would have done.”

Former Rutgers University coach Mike Rice also coached Antoine over the past two summers with his AAU team, Team Rio, which gave Antoine an early dose of college-level coaching. Antoine also attended the SC30 Select Camp run by Stephen Curry in consecutive summers and hit the game-winning three-pointer in this summer’s camp all-star game.

“Coach Mike built me into the man I am now over the last two years with him,” Antoine said. “He brought the dog out of me. He knows I have potential and I’m grateful for all the work he put in with me.”

Now that Antoine has announced his college plans, attention will shift to his Ranney teammate, Scottie Lewis. Like Antoine, Lewis fielded offers from just about every major program in the country and has his list cut to Villanova, Kentucky, Florida, Duke and Stanford. The two friends and five-star recruits have played together since Lewis moved to New Jersey in the sixth grade and neither has outright dismissed the idea of remaining teammates at the next level.

“For the longest time, people have been asking, ‘Are me and Scottie going to the same school?,’” Antoine said. “We have thought about it for a long time. I chose a school first and I really don’t want that to be the question, even though we both considered it. I don’t want to seem like I’m pushing Scottie toward Nova. He is going to go where he feels comfortable and can thrive. That’s what I’m hoping for him.”

And if Lewis chooses Villanova?

“People have seen us play together: I imagine that but even better, especially playing for Jay Wright,” Antoine said. “It would be a great experience.”

 

Sign Up For The SSN Newsletter

Please fill out this form to sign up for the Shore Sports Network newsletter.