El Paso’s Latest Rising Prospect KJ Lewis Gets National Spotlight After Huge Offseason
There is a local prep star in the making and he is starting to turn heads across the country in a major way through the basketball ranks.
Chapin sophomore KJ Lewis is having an offseason one could only dream of. He worked hard getting to the point of being recognized across the country in the class of 2023 and he is already earning offers from notable colleges across the country.
The recruitment frenzy started in May when Rodney Terry and Arturo Ormond of UTEP became the first program to offer the high school sophomore. Lewis is the first local product that Terry's staff has recruited and other coaches took notice after his productive summer in travel ball.
Playing in AAU and in basketball showcases was a must for Lewis this summer, despite the ongoing pandemic. He joined a team a few weeks into the summer and played in several tournaments across the southwest. In September, Houston out of the Mid Major ranks offered the shooting guard. Power-5 affiliates like Arizona State (Pac-12) and TCU (Big 12) soon followed in offering Lewis. Western Illinois offering the young guard made it five Division I offers before he even starts his sophomore year.
On top of all the recognition, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard was recently honored with a McDonald's All-American selection as a prime prospect out of the class of 2023.
"That was a dream come true," Lewis said. "It is one step closer to my goal to become a professional basketball player. Some of the top competition in the nation in the class of 2022 and 2023, so it should be a lot of fun."
For Rodney Lewis, the varsity head coach at Chapin High School, watching a young star blossom continues to be an exciting journey. He sees similarities betwen KJ and the late great Cliff Tucker, whom he coached at Chapin.
"KJ is an original," said Rodney Lewis, no relation to KJ. "I coached Cliff Tucker and he was an original. I know people like to make comparisons with KJ and the greats around here. He's a humble kid, was raised right but when it comes to KJ, it is so much different than any player I've dealt with. He has an old school feel, very mature for his age. As you can tell, as a freshman coming into a new town, there was a lot of pressure on him. He's well-deserving of everything and he's original. He loves to represent the program, super competitive and just a joy to be around. He's an original."
Growing up, KJ was always around sports. His mom, Monica Ramirez, is a former UTEP basketball player and she served as an assistant coach for the Miners in the 90s. Ramirez coached at the high school and middle school levels in El Paso and Midland.
"My upbringing was just me, my mom and my sister," KJ said. "We're close, competitive. It's mostly basketball with this family. It's nonstop traveling. They just try to keep me straight and levelheaded because of the big summer I had."
Last year, his family moved from Midland to El Paso. It took time to get adjusted to the city but soon enough, KJ felt embraced by the community.
"My first year, I felt like the city welcomed me with open arms," he said. "Great people, great city. I feel like El Paso is such a well-rounded city and everyone gets along well. I think it's a great city."
He became an All-City selection last season after averaging 17 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.
"The biggest moment that he had that made me think he will be a pro one day is at Andress—we lost that game," explained coach Lewis. "He's a student of the game. He watches so much film, maybe more than me. Before he moved here, he already watched Chapin-Andress games to get a feel for it. He already came in with the willingness to the rivalry. When I saw how he reacted after we lost that game—while we were struggling to find our true moment as a team—and to see him have that much emotion about losing after a rivalry game, it let me know that this kid is special. That moment told me that he's all about winning. He took all responsibility for the loss."
The Huskies finished last year 26-6 in 5A. The team has high expectations going into this season following an exit out of the playoffs. Earlier this week, Chapin was ranked No. 20 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason poll in the Class 5A ranks.
"We were not happy with the way we bowed out last year," coach Lewis said. "There's a lot of things I didn't do as a coach. I know that KJ and the other guys feel bad how we lost that playoff game and really doesn't take much to motivate these guys. I just let them know that we need to be ready, conditioned, mentally focused and prepared to go. We have a tough schedule. Our guys relish that. We felt we didn't get the respect we deserved last year. I know KJ feels the same way and others too."
"Me and my teammates are coming into this season with a chip on our shoulder," KJ added. "We're playing for a lot more this year. I'm just ready. We're going to attack it hard. El Paso's going to be surprised with what we're going to do this year."
As he gears up for the season, there will be more coaches and programs reaching out to him and extending offers. The sophomore used this first offseason to learn how to speak to college coaches and scouts.
"It was nerve-racking," KJ said. "My first call with coach Terry and coach O (Arturo Ormond) from UTEP was my first offer. It was hard to talk and I couldn't say the right words and didn't know what to say. But as the summer went on, talking to more coaches and talking to more scouts, it got easier. It's just the beginning as many people tell me. I'm just trying to stay ready for it, stay humble and levelheaded as I can be."
As for the future, the ceiling continues to grow higher for the young sophomore, suggests his varsity head coach.
"He's just got so much to still grow," coach Lewis said. "People haven't seen the best of KJ Lewis yet. We still got work to do. He's just going to wow this city. If they want to appreciate a good basketball player, they should forget about what side of town you're on, forget about what school you're cheering for; you want to cheer for an El Pasoan, someone who is going to represent your city proud. You haven't seen the best of KJ Lewis."
Here are some highlights from the local sophomore sensation: