Kentucky has been Lance Ware’s “dream school” since he took a visit to the campus in Lexington as an eighth-grader.
Ware, a senior at Camden, made sure his next trip back to the Bluegrass State will be as a Kentucky recruit by announcing his decision on Thursday to join the Wildcats’ program on a basketball scholarship.
At a press conference at Big Picture Learning Academy in the Parkside section of Camden, Ware declared his commitment to Kentucky, then took off his sweatshirt to reveal a blue Kentucky T-shirt.
“It was the family atmosphere,” Ware said. “To me it was the best balance of basketball and academics.”
Ware can sign a letter of intent to attend Kentucky in November.
The 6-foot-9 Ware and his mother, Monique Ware, hosted Kentucky coach John Calipari during an in-home visit on Monday night.
“We had dinner, and it was a great visit,” Monique Ware said. “It felt like family.”
Ware, a consensus Top 50 player in the class of 2020, had narrowed his choices from around 25 offers to five schools in early August, with a list of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Miami and Providence.
In the end, Ware said he had to decide between Kentucky and Michigan.
“It was hard because I met some great coaches that I loved,” Ware said. “Coach [Juwan] Howard [of Michigan] and Coach Cal, those two ... It was tough to decide.”
Ware made official visits to Ohio State and Michigan earlier this month. He said he twice visited Kentucky on an unofficial basis.
"Eighth grade I went down there on an unofficial,” Ware said of Kentucky. “I know what Coach Cal is like. That’s the biggest thing.”
Ware said he also felt a connection with Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, a former 76er. Payne played college basketball at Louisville with Pervis Ellison, the former Life Center coach who has been instrumental in Ware’s development, as well as Milt Wagner, whose grandson, D.J., is a highly touted freshman at Camden.
Ellison was among the basketball luminaries in attendance, along with former Camden stars Dajuan Wagner and Arthur Barclay as well as former Camden star and coach Vic Carstarphen.
Ware averaged 11.6 points and 9.6 rebounds last season as Camden went 17-11 and reached the South Jersey Group 2 finals, losing to eventual state champion Haddonfield in an overtime thriller at Cherry Hill East.
Ware’s stock skyrocketed after a strong spring and summer on the AAU circuit with the New York Renaissance’s 17-under team.
Ware, a left-handed big man with guard skills, is rated as one of the top senior basketball players in the country by rivals.com (No. 31 in the class of 2020), 247sports.com (No. 32) and ESPN.com (No. 42).
Ware said he is looking forward to serving as a senior leader for a Camden team that likely will feature several promising young players including D.J. Wagner, who is widely regarded as one of the top players in the country in the class of 2023.
“In a few months, everybody is going to be wondering what we’re going to do, and we’re going to show everybody what we can do,” Ware said. “I can’t wait. These young guys are looking up to me, so I just want to show them the ropes.”
Ware said his commitment to play for one of the top college basketball programs in the country will serve to inspire him during his final season at Camden.
“Having this on your chest doesn’t come lightly,” Ware said, pointing to the Kentucky logo on the front of his T-shirt.