With the number of elite high school programs and AAU club teams multiplying exponentially every year, high school recruits now have options upon options regarding where to play and who to play with. As a result, highly rated prospects annually switching teams during the winter or summer months has become the norm. Yet for a pair of five-star senior guards out of New Jersey, this trend has had no impact on their journeys. Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine are the longest tenured star duo in high school hoops.
“Absolutely! Of all time!” says Lewis when asked if he’s part of the best duo in basketball. “We’ve lasted the longest. Can’t no one say they’ve been together longer. It’s like seven years now.”
Starring at the Ranney School, located just a few miles off the Jersey Shore in Monmouth County, the pair has brought into the national spotlight a program that wasn’t on anyone’s hoops radar prior to their arrival.
Just recently, both blue chippers, ranked among the top 15 recruits in the Class of 2019, announced their college decisions—signaling an end to their historic run sharing the court together at Ranney and with the Team Rio program during AAU season.
Lewis, a 6-5 guard, committed to the Florida Gators after also holding offers from the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas, among the dozens of other scholarships on the table. He ultimately chose Gainesville over Lexington.
Antoine, also a 6-5 guard, committed to Villanova in September after listing Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Kansas among his other final options. According to ESPN, he’s the highest-rated recruit to commit to the Wildcats since Corey Fisher, a member of the Class of 2007, did so over a decade ago.
The duo helped lead Ranney to a 28-5 record last season while reaching the Non-Public A championship, winning the Shore Conference Tournament and sectional playoff title (both achievements were a first in school history) and finishing ranked second in the state.
The Antoine-Lewis tag team show hasn’t just garnered attention for the results on the court. The jovial pair has also figured out how to stay in the moment and enjoy the experience they’ve created.
“Every game, we try to approach it as serious as possible, but the moment the ball tips off and Scottie takes the ball down the lane and dunks on somebody and everyone turns around hyped and screaming—that point is a balance of being serious and having fun,” Antoine says.
“I think that’s when it’s really going to hit us—when we have that first practice and Bryan is not there and I’m not there for him,” Lewis says of the pair’s inevitable split. “But we’ve been to so many camps [where] we haven’t been on the same team and we’ve practiced with new guys and faces, so I think that has kind of prepared us for that next level and being used to not having each other there.”
Antoine and Lewis are just the latest names on a long list of Jersey natives putting on for the Garden State on the national level in recent years. Just last season, NJ was home to three of the top 25 recruits in the Class of 2018.
Despite being a dynamic one-two punch and displaying an indestructible chemistry on and off the hardwood—which is even more evident when at times they finish each other sentences during our sit-down interview—the two hold vastly contrasting personalities and approaches to the game.
Lewis sees himself as more of the vocal leader and spends most of the time playing off the ball and doing a little bit of everything, while Antoine is more of the soft-spoken assassin and the primary ball handler and scorer. While Antoine has more of a laid-back, glass is half full mentality, Lewis admits losing isn’t something he deals with well.
Antoine averaged 21.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game last season. Throughout his career at Ranney, he’s averaged over 20 points (20.7) per, piling up 1,745 points in 84 games.
Although today he is touted as one of the elite scorers in America, at one point in Antoine’s life, it was the diamond and not the hardwood that appeared to be his calling.
“When I was 4, I started playing basketball, but when I moved to New Jersey [from Florida] I don’t know why but I started finding baseball so intriguing,” Antoine says. “For like three or four years, that’s all I did. I trained. I played every position but I was mainly first base because I was a tall kid and had a long reach. But I ended up picking up basketball and everything blew up from there.”
Lewis has also surpassed 1,000 career points at Ranney but is known for filling up the stat sheet beyond just the points column, averaging 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks last season.
A two-sport athlete, Lewis is also part of the track and field team at Ranney, where he says he’s run the 100 meters at a personal-best 10.6 seconds—which he says is the school record. He also runs the 200m, this year started running the 400 and does the high jump.
Lewis’ goal heading into college is the same as most kids in his position: to win a National Championship.
Heading into November, Florida had the fourth-best recruiting class for next season, according to ESPN. The Gators have already secured commitments from three top-40 prospects and are looking to add more.
Antoine is heading into a Villanova program that has won the National Championship twice in the past three seasons and has become the clear-cut top program in the legendary Big East Conference. Yet he isn’t approaching his college goals in the same manner we’ve come to expect for players of his stature.
“For achievements for next year, mine are a little more different than winning a national championship,” Antoine says. “I have the pleasure to be coached by Jay Wright and the stuff that he’s done to his players over the course of three-to-four years—they’ve turned out to be a finished product [that] he envisioned when he first started recruiting them. So I’d say my achievement for next year is to just soak up everything he has to tell me and learn from everything he has to teach me. I feel like if I listen to him and I pay attention to what he’s saying then hopefully if the whole team does the same we could probably end up winning a national championship.”
But before they take over college hoops on their own, they still have one more season together in which to add accolades and historic feats to their résumés. The two have already left their prints on a community that up to this point hasn’t been known for elite hoops talent. And it’s that kind of effect that the duo hopes to have on an even larger scale moving forward.
“I think we’ve been a lot more driven than motivated,” Lewis says. “I saw a quote one time that said, ‘Never be motivated but always be driven.’ Because an artist is always motivated—it could take them one year [to] do a painting, but that motivation only lasts however so long, and when you’re driven that’s skin-deep, that’s in your heart and mind, and so that’s something that lasts forever. I think we’ve been more driven than anything to be able to express and use our platform and voice to affect people near us and far.”
Franklyn Calle is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @FrankieC7.
Portraits by Johnnie Izquierdo.