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.
Duke lands Canadian star R.J. Barrett, projected No. 1 pick with ‘limitless potential’
Canadian basketball star R.J. Barrett, a projected future No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and a player with “limitless potential,” committed to Duke on Friday in Brampton, Ontario.
The 6-foot-7 Barrett, the No. 1 ranked player in the Class of 2018 out of Montverde (FL) Academy, also considered Kentucky and Oregon.
“Next year I will be attending Duke University,” Barrett announced on TSN’s Sportscentre in Canada.
Barrett won’t be at Duke long, though. He is projected as the No. 1 pick in 2019 by multiple sites, including ESPN.com.
“R.J.’s skillset is developing very quickly,” Dwayne Washington, who coaches Barrett with the UPlay Canada AAU program, told ZAGSBLOG. “He is already a prolific scorer and gets to the line at a high rate. He has shown his ability to play-make, which will eventually make him a special 2/1 in college basketball and beyond. His upside is limitless as he could potentially be the leader of an NBA franchise within a few years. He brings the ability to create mismatches as well as make his teammates jobs easier at the college level.”
Barrett earned the MVP award in the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic, and also won MVP during the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend in the Basketball Without Borders game. This past summer, the Mississauga Ont., native was named MVP of the 2017 FIBA U-19 Basketball World Cup after leading Canada to a historic gold medal victory. He was also named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists.
Monteverde coach Kevin Boyle has coached numerous top-3 NBA picks, including former No. 1s Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving, No. 2s D’Angelo Russell and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and No. 3 Joel Embiid. He says Barrett is the next in that line.
“He’s right in that class [with the other top picks I have coached],” Boylesaid of Barrett on The 4 Quarters Podcast. “Most of the guys [who become superstars] are all those wing guys that end up better in these drafts over the years. That’s why I’m saying he should be the number one pick in two years.”
It’s possible the Blue Devils could have back-to-back No. 1 picks in 2018 (Marvin Bagley III) and ’19 (Barrett).
NBA analyst Leo Rautins says Duke is getting a special player who will soon be starring in the NBA.
“There’s just something about him that draws you to him when you talk to him, so it’s not surprising the same effect happens on the court,” Rautins told The 4 Quarters Podcast. “As a basketball player, he’s got length, he’s got athleticism, he’s got savvy….He’s got this dog in him. He plays with a motor and that motor runs hot. He comes at you. He can win games for you at both ends of the floor, he can get on the glass. And what is now becoming a position-less NBA, R.J. Barrett fits that. As he continues to gets stronger, he’s going to be able to play and guard multiple positions in the NBA.”
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Rautins added. “I think the NBA scouts are salivating looking at him and his potential, what he’s going to be able to bring to the league so this is a huge announcement. I think people have been excited. That first-ever gold for Canada as well this summer was just a huge thing and it just added so much more credibility to what’s happening and exposure for the game in this country. It’s an exciting time, it really is.”
Barrett joins point guard Tre Jones and shooting guard Cam Reddish in Duke’s 2018 class.
Barrett is the latest Montverde senior to commit, following guards Andrew Nembhard (Florida) and Mike DeVoe (Georgia Tech) and forwards Makhi and Makhel Mitchell (Maryland) and forward Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga).
Barrett and his Montverde teammates are headed to China from Dec. 2-21 where they will play other American teams in Providence Day School (N.C.) and Chaminade (CA) College Prepatory Academy as well as Chinese teams. They will play in a round robin format Dec. 6-9 at the Olympic Training Center. A specific game schedule has yet to be released.
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.