Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
By JOSH RATTRAYINDIANAPOLIS — R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 class, is waiting for an offer he can’t refuse. The Canada native’s godfather is Steve Nash, and the 6-foot-7 wing is taking his time deciding whether or not to reclassify to the 2018 class and his future options.
On whether he’ll reclassify, Barrett said the upcoming U19 World Championship in Cairo, Egypt will be a factor in his process. Other than that, the highly-sought after Barrett is playing everything close to the vest.
“Right now, I don’t know,” Barrett said when asked about joining the Class of 2018 at the Nike EYBL stop here, where he made his season debut after sitting out last weekend with a bone bruise in his knee. “Right now I’m still 2019 and I will make a decision in August.”
Barrett said he didn’t notice Michigan’s John Beilein, Texas’ Shaka Smart, Arizona’s Sean Miller and Duke’s Jeff Capel among a throng of coaches watching him. But when asked about Kentucky, he did mention his connection with fellow Canadian and former UK standout Jamal Murray.
“I don’t really know much more (about Kentucky) than what I see on TV,” Barrett said. “Jamal is one of my friends and to watch him play for Kentucky was something special. He said he loved it. It helped him get to The League, so he’s thankful.
“To be honest, not really. I haven’t really looked at any schools. I’m just trying to get better as a basketball player, and wherever I end up, I end up.”
(After the weekend, Barrett picked up offers from Louisville, Miami and SMU.)
After a slow start, Barrett led his UPlay Canada team to a 70-67 win over Southern Stampede. Barrett lived at the foul line, consistently drawing contact and driving hard to his left. He finished some tough shots in traffic in the first half, but didn’t wow the crowd until after halftime.
“I played OK,” he said. “I haven’t played in a while, so I needed to get the rust off. I’m feeling better. I felt better as the game went on.”
In the second half he broke out. At around the 10-minute mark, the lefty threw down a vicious dunk and moments later he finished a four-offensive rebound possession by being fouled on a tip-in. He showed the ability to finish through contact, lead a fast break and distribute to his teammates.
Barrett said he wants to improve his jump shot, defense and ballhandling. Should he enter the 2018 class, he’ll not lack for confidence.
“No matter what environment I go into – I could be playing against LeBron James and the best players in the world – and I’ll always believe I can do my thing,” Barrett said. “That’s just that confidence that I have.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.