UK basketball held its first practice this week, but Mark Pope’s still busy recruiting too

An offseason of firsts for new Kentucky basketball coach Mark Pope featured another milestone moment Monday: Pope and his new-look Kentucky coaching staff ran their first practice of the summer session, featuring the 12 scholarship players UK currently has on its 2024-25 roster.

But even while Pope was focused on the present and immediate future of UK basketball, he was laying the ground work for seasons to come.

UK dished out scholarship offers on Monday to two prospects in the 2025 recruiting class: four-star combo guard Acaden Lewis and five-star power forward Nate Ament.

Lewis’ offer came while he was on the UK campus for an unofficial visit.

This was the latest in a flurry of recent recruiting activity for Pope and the Wildcats, who have hit the spring recruiting events hard while also building a brand-new roster for next season after the mass exodus of players that came with this offseason’s coaching transition from John Calipari to Pope.

Class of 2025 college basketball recruit Acaden Lewis dribbles the ball while playing for Sidwell Friends School (Washington D.C.) against Corner Canyon (Utah) in April 2023 at Georgetown University. Kentucky offered a scholarship to Lewis on Monday.
Class of 2025 college basketball recruit Acaden Lewis dribbles the ball while playing for Sidwell Friends School (Washington D.C.) against Corner Canyon (Utah) in April 2023 at Georgetown University. Kentucky offered a scholarship to Lewis on Monday.

Acaden Lewis earns UK scholarship offer

Lewis — a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard who plays at Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. — has gotten plenty of recruiting attention from Pope and the UK staff this spring.

First, Kentucky got a look at Lewis during the first major recruiting weekend of the year in May. UK had several coaches present for all three days of the third session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), an event that was held in Indiana.

Lewis plays for Team Durant on the EYBL circuit and is one of that circuit’s leaders in assists (3.6 per game) and steals (1.3 per game) following the regular season. Lewis also averaged more than 15 points per game for Team Durant across the 15-game regular-season schedule.

Last week, all four Kentucky coaches permitted to go out recruiting — Pope, along with associate head coach Alvin Brooks III and assistants Cody Fueger and Jason Hart — were at the NBPA Top 100 Camp at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.

Lewis was one of the 100 high school prospects in action at the event: He performed well in a number of areas, averaging 15.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. Lewis was named one of 10 all-star performers.

“I just give all the benefit to my teammates because they let me take over,” Lewis said last week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, shortly after a performance in which he scored 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists.

“When you’re playing with a bunch of guys, sometimes you’ve got to put your pride aside and just let other people take over. They let me do that today, really thankful for them.”

Lewis is currently ranked as the No. 59 overall prospect in the 2025 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite, but he figures to be in for a big jump in the rankings after his spring showings.

“I think I’m a great teammate,” added Lewis, whose lead recruiter at UK is Hart, a new assistant coach who formerly was the head coach of the NBA’s G League Ignite team.

“I’m dapping everybody up. Trying to create new bonds. And I feel like people respect that, so they’re OK with me taking over if I need to because I’m creating such good relationships.”

At the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Lewis cited Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving as one of his basketball influences.

While Lewis’ recruitment currently features a ton of top-level offers (including Auburn, hometown school Georgetown, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, UConn and Virginia), getting him on campus in Lexington was a significant move by Pope and his coaching staff.

So far, Lewis’ only two official visits have come to Florida State and Virginia.

“Just rebounding and playing hard,” Lewis said when asked about areas in which he’d still like to improve. “That’s the one thing that you always control. Whether you’re scoring, whether you’re not scoring, you can play really hard.”

Kentucky extends scholarship offer to Nate Ament

In addition to Lewis, Ament was the other class of 2025 prospect who reported a UK scholarship offer Monday.

Currently ranked as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2025 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite, Ament plays at Highland School in Warrenton, Virginia.

Ament, a 6-foot-9, 185-pound power forward, was another prospect who the new Kentucky coaching staff first got eyes on during that first major recruiting weekend last month.

Ament plays on the Adidas 3SSB circuit with Team Loaded, and has also been one of the statistical leaders in a number of categories on that circuit this spring. Ament is averaging more than 20 points and six rebounds per game on the Adidas circuit this spring.

Ament also has several multi-steal games with Team Loaded this season, including one with four steals and another with five.

One of Ament’s teammates on Team Loaded is Kaden Magwood, a Louisville native who is a standout class of 2025 recruit in his own right.

Like Lewis, UK’s coaching staff was intrigued enough by Ament to dedicate further time and resources to get a second viewing of him.

This entailed members of the Kentucky coaching staff watching Ament (and class of 2025 guard Jasper Johnson) in several settings playing for USA Basketball, including the Men’s Under-18 National Team training camp in Colorado and the FIBA U18 Men’s AmeriCup in Argentina.

Also like Lewis, Ament’s scholarship offer list is notable and lengthy: Among the schools are Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville and Virginia.

For Ament, the Kentucky coach to watch is Fueger, a longtime assistant under Pope at both of his previous head coaching stops at Utah Valley and BYU.

Ament has previously said that Pope and Fueger recruited him when the duo were together at BYU. Now, that process is ongoing in their new home base of Lexington.

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