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New Jersey has produced its fair share of NBA lottery picks in recent years, including No. 1 overall picks Kyrie Irving and Karl-Anthony Towns and No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Now the current crop of seniors in New Jersey is coming up strong behind them.
The Garden State had three players named McDonald's All-Americans last week in Kentucky-bound Kahlil Whitney of Roselle Catholic, Villanova signee Bryan Antoine of Ranney, and Florida signee Scottie Lewis of Ranney.
All three are long, athletic guards who seem to fit the prototype of the modern NBA. And all three are projected lottery picks in the latest 2020 NBA Mock Draft according to ESPN.com — with Lewis at No. 4, Antoine at 10 and Whitney at 11.
But more immediately, Whitney and Roselle Catholic (17-1) will take on Antoine, Lewis and Ranney (15-2) on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Brookdale Community College in what may well be the de facto state championship game. The two teams could meet again in the loaded New Jersey Non-Public B bracket of the state tournament. Whitney and Roselle Catholic won the New Jersey Tournament of Champions last season, the school's third title since 2013.
"I'm excited. I'm super, super, super excited," the 6-foot-5 Lewis said of Wednesday's game. "Obviously, we played them last year. I was out with an ankle injury and they beat us. The second time was in our state tournament and they beat us, so I know my entire team and my entire coaching staff is super mentally prepared to get to get to that game. Once we play them, I hope they're ready and I know my team is going to be mentally prepared to play that game."
Lewis is Ranney's best defender and could end up matching up on Whitney, the 6-foot-7 wing who chose Kentucky in August. At the Hoophall Classic, Lewis guarded 6-11 Jaden McDaniels, now the projected No. 1 player in the 2020 Draft, and held him to 10 points.
"I feel like Scottie's probably one of the best defenders out there in the country," Antoine said.
"I think I'm the best defensive player in the country," Lewis added. "Being able to guard five positions, using my quickness and my length to my advantage. And I know I have those things on other people so I try to use that as much as possible."
After his MVP performance at the Hoophall where he went for 26 points, Lewis shot up to No. 4 in the latest ESPN mock.
"He is excellent attacking in the open floor, an unselfish passer and he did a better job of keeping his frenetic energy in check in terms of minimizing mistakes," ESPN wrote. "Lewis still has plenty of room to improve as a half-court scorer, but it's easy to bet on guys long term who are this competitive with great basketball instincts."
Lewis was down to Florida and Kentucky in September, before selecting the Gators in October. He and Whitney play similar styles, but if he had chosen Kentucky, he and Whitney would have been teammates in Big Blue Nation.
"Coach Cal is really special," Lewis said of Kentucky coach John Calipari. "Even after I didn't end up committing there they texted and they said they understood the whole process and they told me that if I ever needed help down the road that they would be there for me. A lot of people talk down about coach Cal and what they do at Kentucky, but he truly looks out for the players and I understand that."
He added: "If you ever get a chance to go there [to Kentucky] you should."
Whitney, meantime, is going to Kentucky.
He held off signing his National Letter of Intent until May 3 in his native Chicago, so he can do it at his grammar school and show the young kids there what a positive role model can accomplish. He lived with his mother in Chicago before moving to New Jersey to be with his father, former Seton Hall player Kelly Whitney.
Like Antoine and Lewis, Whitney has dreams of playing professionally.
"Definitely," he said recently. "Ever since I was a kid, this was all I've ever dreamed of was going to the NBA and playing against those superstars and being that guy."
Whitney talks to former Kentucky and Roselle Catholic standout Isaiah Briscoe, now with the Orlando Magic. Knowing NBA players makes his own dream seem more attainable.
"He gave me a lot of words of encouragement, like he went to Kentucky and I went there, so he just gives me a lot of words of encouragement," Whitney said.
Whitney is a tough two-way player who could guard Antoine or Lewis on Wednesday and wants to guard NBA players down the road.
"I'm the type of guy that wants to guard those superstars like Kevin Durant and just take pride on defense," he said. "And actually score the ball like Kawhi Leonard. I'm blessed to have this size and ability and I'm blessed to have this ability to use it."
Before any NBA or college games are played, Wednesday's game looms and then a potential rematch between Ranney and Roselle Catholic in the state tournament.