Kentucky may be all-in on building its 2022 recruiting class, but that’s not stopping the coaches from laying the groundwork with the top prospects in 2023.
Among them? Five-star guard KJ Lewis, who is widely seen as one of the top perimeter defenders in the rising junior class. In fact, if you ask him, he’s the best two-way player in his class.
“I think I’m the best two-way player in my grade class of 2023,” Lewis told KSR at this week’s Pangos All-American Camp. “I don’t have to get the ball in the offensive set because I can the ball in the defensive set, in transition. (What separates me is) my athletic ability to get my one-dribble pull-up, two-dribble pull-up and shooting over defenders.”
At the Pangos All-American Camp, widely seen as the top non-shoe company event of the year, Lewis separated himself as one of the top players in his class and more than held his own alongside and against those in the rising senior class. He was disruptive on the defensive end of the floor, regularly jumping passing lanes and getting the ball ahead in transition. On offense, he was explosive, strong and finished well around the rim.
“It’s a great feeling, especially being one of the younger guys here, just trying to learn, grow my game and get better. Hopefully I’ll be here next year as one of the older guys,” Lewis told KSR. “I think I’ve held my own playing with some of the best players in the country in 2022 on my team, just trying to find my spots and find my rhythm. I definitely feel like I’ve done a good job competing against most of the best players here.”
Known for his grit and tenacity on both ends of the floor, it’s no surprise that some of the nation’s top programs are already prioritizing Lewis early in the recruiting process.
“It’s going great right now with the live period being open with coaches and stuff, them being able to contact us and now we can take visits. It’s been going good so far,” Lewis said. “Kentucky, Arizona, Houston, Texas, TCU, UTEP, New Mexico State, Kansas, those are the main ones I can think of right now (prioritizing me the most).”
As for Kentucky specifically, Lewis says assistant coach Chin Coleman is his lead recruiter, who contacts him “almost every day.”
“The level of contact has been almost every day, I talk to them pretty much all throughout the week,” he said. “I’m in contact with Coach Coleman, he’s a great coach and I talk to him a lot about my game.”
UK believes his dog mentality would fit in well in Lexington as a Wildcat.
“A dog, a two-way player, can score off the ball or with the ball in my hands,” Lewis told KSR. “I just have that grit that would fit in with the Kentucky culture. I have to expand my game to get to the pro level, but he sees that potential in me. I think that’s a culture I could thrive in.”
Among the things he’s working on, the five-star guard is working to become a better off-ball threat, hoping to become more versatile as a shooter and pure scorer.
“Playing off the ball for catch-and-shoot threes, curling, just stuff off the ball because I know I can thrive with the ball in my hands,” he said. “Just playing that combo guard role, playing the two guard, a little off the ball.”
With in-person recruiting back, Lewis is now turning his attention to the visit process, starting with an unofficial visit to UTEP to close out the week. He’ll begin scheduling other trips right away.
Had a great time with Coach Golding at my unofficial at UTEP🧡💙⛏ pic.twitter.com/NfHfYBMlRW
— kj lewis (@thekjlewis) June 12, 2021
“It’s a great feeling to go across the country to see these great schools, seeing the culture, seeing the fanbase, the universities. I think it’s a great feeling and I’m glad they’re finally letting us do it,” he said. “I’m going to sit down with my family and hopefully set some up after this weekend.”
And if the opportunity presents itself, he’d like to make the trip to Lexington.
“Yes sir,” Lewis told KSR. “Hopefully.”
for the city #915 🤞🏾 pic.twitter.com/rJFtCZIdoF
— kj lewis (@thekjlewis) June 9, 2021