Basketball – Hornets Select Scottie Lewis in Second Round of NBA Draft
From the time he threw down his first 360 dunk as a seventh-grader, Scottie Lewis was on a path to the NBA - both in his mind and in the minds of just about everyone who watched and coached him.
There have been some incredible highs and a few lows in the seven years since, but on Thursday night, Lewis's childhood dream came true.
The Charlotte Hornets made the former Ranney School star the 56th overall selection of the 2021 NBA Draft Thursday - five picks away from the final selection of second and final round.
Lewis spent two years at the University of Florida, where he averaged 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.05 blocks in 2020-21 while starting nine of the 21 games in which he appeared. As a freshman in 2019-20, Lewis averaged 8.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and shot 36 percent from three-point range.
In those two seasons with the Gators, Lewis flashed the potential that made many in the mock-draft industry project him as a potential first-rounder when he was leaving Ranney, while also dealing with the challenges of adjusting to the college game.
The 2021 NCAA Tournament show both ends of the spectrum for Lewis, with the 6-foot-5 wing turning in 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting in a first-round win over Virginia Tech, followed by a scoreless outing against Oral Roberts in the round of 32 thanks to early foul trouble.
Lewis was also pushed to the bench during his sophomore year, with head coach Mike White benching him to start Florida's SEC Tournament first round game vs. Vanderbilt after Lewis arrived late to the team shoot-around on the day of the game. He started the first eight games of his sophomore season, then came off the bench for his next eight before starting in his 17th appearance.
Following the up-and-down season - which also began with the Gators losing star Keontae Johnson for the season after the standout sophomore collapsed during a December game vs. Florida State - Lewis decided to roll the dice and begin pursuing his professional career by forgoing his senior year to enter the NBA Draft.
Despite the late-season benching during his sophomore season, Lewis reportedly impressed the teams for which he worked out leading up to the draft with his character and coachability. He has also been regarded as a potential standout defender at the next level thanks to his seven-foot wingspan and overall athleticism, which also showed during his combine workout on June 24.
Lewis was the fourth and final of four picks made by the Hornets Thursday, following first-rounders James Bouknight (UConn) and Kai Jones (Texas) and early-second-rounder J.T. Thor out of Auburn. Charlotte is led by emerging star point guard LaMelo Ball, who was the the Hornets' first-round pick at third overall in 2020.
Lewis and current Villanova sophomore Bryan Antoine entered high school at Ranney together as a duo with sky-high expectations and the two McDonald's All-American guards delivered on that promise by leading Ranney to an NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title as seniors. Ranney was the first ever Shore Conference team to win the T of C.
Lewis and Antoine were Shore Sports Network Co-Players of the Year for the 2018-19 season, with Lewis averaging 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting 56 percent from the field, 75 percent from the free-throw line and 36.5 percent from three-point range during his senior season.
Antoine and Lewis left high school as All-Americans with the possibility of entering the NBA Draft together in 2020, but that storybook draft night did not play out for the former teammates. While Lewis decided to return to Florida for his sophomore year, Antoine has battled through injuries during both of his seasons at Villanova while finally earning key minutes while healthy at the end of this past season. Antoine will enter his junior season in 2021-22 looking to break out.
Lewis is the first player from the Shore area to be drafted since J.R. Smith in 2004, although Smith did not graduate from a Shore Conference school. Smith spent three highlight-packed seasons at Lakewood before finishing his high-school career at St. Benedict's in Newark.
Former Freehold and Temple University star Tim Perry (No. 7 overall to the Phoenix Suns in 1988) is highest ever selected player to graduate from a Shore Conference school. Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid spent all four high school seasons at Roselle Catholic, but as a native of Asbury Park, he is another current Shore-area player in the NBA.
Christian Brothers Academy alum John Crotty is the last graduate of a Shore Conference program to play in an NBA game, which he did in the 2002-03 season with the Denver Nuggets. By appearing in an NBA game, Lewis would end a 19-year drought in which no player from the Shore Conference played in an NBA game.
With the first overall selection Thursday night, the Detroit Pistons took Oklahoma State phenom Cade Cunningham, who faced off against Lewis when the two were in high school. With Cunningham leading the way as a junior, Montverde Academy handed Ranney its most lopsided loss of Lewis's career when the Florida Prep powerhouse took down the Panthers, 89-51, at Kean University.
Ranney would bounce back to win the Tournament of Champions a little more than a month later.