When he’s not throwing down thunderous two-hand jams or draining threes from beyond the arc, Ranney School’s Scottie Lewis is one of the most compassionate kids around.
Yes, you read that right – he’s technically still a kid.
As one of the top basketball recruits not only in New Jersey, but also around the nation, Lewis has made a name on the hardwood with his best friend and teammate Bryan Antoine.
And with the platform he’s helped build, Lewis decided it was time to give back to the community that helped him get to where he is now.
When in Georgia this past summer with Team Rio – the AAU team which Lewis and Antoine both star on – Lewis came across a homeless family outside a Chipotle restaurant as his team was getting their dinner.
What happened next shined a light on Lewis’ past, something his mother and grandmother had always reminded him of.
“Me and my family were never homeless, but we came pretty close,” Lewis said.
“We know what it feels like to be hungry. When we see people like that, we have a certain eye to it and compassion to that.”
The first annual Hoops for Homeless event was born out of that thought.
On September 16, Lewis attracted some of the best boys and girls hoops players from around the Shore Conference and New Jersey to Ranney School’s Gerhard Pavilion for Athletics. An afternoon basketball fundraiser aimed to raise money for Lunch Break, a non-profit organization out of Red Bank serving as a social services hub for the less than fortunate in Monmouth County.
Lewis crafted Hoops for Homeless with a core group of family and friends and turned a simple thought into an afternoon of giving back to the less than fortunate.
Gwendolyn Love, Lunch Break’s executive director, said Hoops for Homeless was “absolutely vital” and was thankful to Lewis for choosing Lunch Break for the fundraiser.
“Scottie reached out to us. Before we knew anything about it, it was already a done deal,” Love said. “His grandmother came and informed us that Scottie was doing this and that Lunch Break was the beneficiary. He had it already organized and planned and he just wanted to know if he could use our logo. So of course, we said ‘absolutely.’ ”
And while the event was a fundraiser with one hundred percent of the proceeds going to Lunch Break, the draw of watching some of the best basketball talent around New Jersey stuffed a few hundred people into the gymnasium.
It was a who’s who of hoops players sharing the hardwood on Saturday. On the girls’ side, players like Dara Mabrey and Faith Masonius (Manasquan), Katie Rice, Rose Caverly, Haley Moore (Red Bank Catholic), and Tori Hyduke and Lola Mullaney (Rumson-Fair Haven) lit up the scoreboard with dazzling performances in a three-point contest and an all-star game.
RBC’s Rice has become one of the Shore’s top players. She played at Hoops for Homeless with her father, former Rutgers University men’s basketball coach Mike Rice. He currently coaches Lewis and Antoine on Team Rio.
Katie Rice was more than happy to give back to a cause that made plenty of sense.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” she said. “Being a part of RBC these last four years and help- ing with charities, to be a part of something as big as this is amazing. There’s probably never been a kid like Scottie who’s done something like this before.”
While the girls dazzled, it was Lewis and Antoine who stole the show during the afternoon. An all-star weekend-worthy dunk contest showcasing jumps from the free throw line, between the legs, 360-degree jams, and off-the-back-wall throwdowns highlighted some of the best dunks of the afternoon.
Then came the boys’ all- star game, which featured lineups any college coach would dream of. Lewis and Antoine played with some of the most talented players around the Shore Conference: Teddy Sourlis and Ian O’Connor (RFH), Kyle Cardaci and Alex Rice (Mater Dei Prep), as well as their Ranney School teammates Chris Autino, Ahmadu Sarnor, Saviour Akuwovo, and Alex Klatsky.
After the three-hour event concluded, Antoine said the afternoon would be one easily remembered when every player in that gym had moved on to bigger gyms and arenas.
“I’ll just remember how the top players in the Shore Conference, boys and girls, got to one gym and played two halves,” Antoine said. “I hope this is an annual thing. I hope we do it for the next who knows how many more years.”
And for Lewis, using the game of basketball to better the community is the best combination he could think of.
“When you don’t think about the money, but know you’re doing something for a good cause, you can’t think about the financial part of it,” Lewis said. “You just go out there and go after that schedule you set up for yourself that day, and you have fun with it.”
Now, none of this goes without mentioning Lewis’ remarkable skills on the court. John Calipari, the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball coach, came to Tinton Falls on Sunday to personally offer Lewis and Antoine with full- ride scholarships to play in Lexington when they both graduate in 2019.
Since joining Ranney and Team Rio, Lewis and Antoine have arguably become two of the most coveted recruits in America.
Considering the amount of talent together in Ranney’s main gym this past weekend, Lewis said those not in attendance missed a chance to witness something truly memorable – all in the name of helping those who need it.
“The turnout was really great, and whoever didn’t show up, you missed something special to be a part of and just to watch in general,” Lewis said.
This article was first published in the Sept. 21-28, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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