Geographically speaking, Ranney teammates Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis will not be playing college basketball all that close to one another, but the same factor that pulled Antoine to Villanova influenced Lewis in his final decision.

With most of the top programs in the country courting both five-star standouts, both were drawn to the first place that made them feel at home.

Tuesday night, Lewis made it public that he will be giving his non-binding verbal commitment to the University of Florida, choosing the Gators over the University of Kentucky.

Scottie Lewis during a Ranney team visit to Florida in December of 2016. (Photo by Mark Brown, B51 Photography)

"I just realized that the University of Florida was the place for me with how they are outside the basketball world and my comfortability with them," Lewis told Pat Lawless of Prep Circuit. "I think coach Mike White and I both have a lot going for ourselves. I think we will mesh and create something special together."

According to Lewis, Florida was the first program that reached out to him the summer before his freshman and he has developed a close relationship with head coach Mike White and his staff ever since. Along with St. John’s, Florida was also the first to extend a scholarship offer to Lewis and that early bond paid off in securing Lewis’s commitment.

"Having that bond with the Florida coaching staff is incredible," Lewis said. "During my five home visits, I liked them all, but with Florida, it was different. When Florida came to my house, there was just a bunch of laughs. We just did what a family would do if they were together."

Kentucky, by contrast, came in with a relatively late offer for Lewis, but the appeal of playing for coach John Calipari and arguably college basketball’s best program with respect to developing NBA players nearly swayed Lewis. He recently cut his list to Florida and Kentucky after eliminating Villanova, Stanford and Duke.

"Kentucky is Kentucky, that's evident with how much they prove year in and year out," Lewis said. "They know what they have to do and what players they need to get. With Kentucky being as great as they are, you need to at least think about them."

Florida is two years removed from a trip to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and Lewis will be part of a recruiting class that aims to push the Gators over the top during his stay in Gainesville.

Lewis is a three-time All-Shore selection by Shore Sports Network, including First-Team selections in each of the past two seasons. Since averaging 15.9 points per game as a freshman, he has steadily increased his scoring output each year, increasing to 16.2 points as a sophomore and 16.4 as a junior. Last season, Lewis eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career and will enter his senior season with 1,297 career points.

From an early point of his career, Lewis carved out a reputation as a committed defender and has evolved on the defensive side of the floor. He was a standout shot-blocker in each of his first two seasons and while he still provides highlight-worthy blocks on a routine basis, Lewis has become more of a lockdown defender at ground level, as well as at the rim.

The skills Lewis shows on high highlight reel show up on the stat sheet as well. During his junior season, Lewis posted 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game to go with his 16.4 points, including a handful of near triple-doubles.

Prior to landing at Ranney in the eighth grade, Lewis moved with his mother from Georgia back to New York City after the sixth grade and relocated to Hazlet in seventh grade. He joined his current AAU team, Team Rio, and befriended current teammate Alex Klatsky. Lewis and Klatsky played for Ranney’s middle school team and Antoine and classmate Chris Autino joined them as freshmen.

Klatsky will also join Lewis at Florida next year as a preferred walk-on. Klatsky’s father, Brian, is the director of Team Rio and went to graduate school at Florida after playing basketball at Skidmore College.

"As I saw all of my friends around me like Bryan Antoine, Alex Klatsky and more committing and it all started to click for me," Lewis said. "The last couple of weeks have been really stressful in figuring out what is best for me and my family.

"I'm the one who has to put on the jersey, put in the hours on and off the court and eventually perform on game day. I had to find the place where I felt the most comfortable and the University of Florida just happened to be that place."

The last Shore Conference athlete to play basketball on scholarship in a Power Five conference also went to Florida. Christian Brothers Academy standout Dan Werner played for the Gators from 2006-07 to 2009-10 and was a freshman reserve on Florida’s 2006-07 National Championship team, which was the second of two straight championships for coach Billy Donovan and the Gators.

"I feel that players like Tre Mann, Omar Payne, myself and others coming at the University of Florida need to be leaders to bring Florida back to being that national championship winning team. I'm just happy to take part in what we are trying to create at Florida."

 

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