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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.
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Tuesday / October 16.
  • Preseason No. 1 Duke to play exhibitions in Canada as R.J. Barrett returns home (UPDATED)

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    R.J. Barrett played his final high school game in his native Canada, and now he will play his first college games there, too.

    The 6-foot-7 Barrett and his heralded fellow freshmen will be with preseason No. 1 Duke when they play exhibition games in Toronto and Montreal in August. Duke is set for a pair of contests at Hershey Centre in Toronto against Ryerson University on August 15 at 7 p.m. ET and the University of Toronto at 6 p.m. ET on August 17. The tour concludes in Montreal against McGill University at Place Bell on August 19 at 3 p.m. ET.

    “It’s going to be amazing to take part in this tour,” said Barrett, who went for 47 points, five rebounds, three blocks, and one assist en route to  Team White MVP honors in a 138-135 loss to Team Blue in the Signature All-Canadian Showcase in suburban Toronto on April 23. “Not only will I be putting on the Duke jersey for the first time, but I will be doing it in my home country in front of friends and family. It will be a good way to start our year, and bond with each other as teammates.”

    Now Barrett and his fellow “Fab Five” members Joey Baker, Tre Jones, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson will usher in a new era in Duke basketball for the 2018-19 season.

    “We are excited about the opportunity to be tested against three quality basketball programs in Canada this summer,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “More than a third of our roster includes players competing for the first time as collegians. The practices and games associated with the tour will allow us to bond as a team, while providing us with a terrific educational opportunity to see another country and two amazing cities – Toronto and Montreal. It should be especially fun for one of our newcomers, R.J. Barrett, who will be home.”

    That era isn’t expected to last long as Barrett is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, per ESPN.com, while Reddish and Williamson are also projected Top-10 picks.

    A year from now, Barrett figures to hear his named called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, potentially as the No. 1 overall pick.

    “Of course, he’s the No. 1 player in the country and he’s going to Duke so that’s taking the right steps to be in the NBA,” Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, a fellow Canadian, told me for the Basketball Times cover story on Barrett. “He definitely has the potential, [he’s] just gotta keep working and keep getting better and then we’ll probably see him in the Barclays Center in two years taking that hat.”

    Outside of all-star games, Barrett hasn’t lost a game of significance in a year. In April, he led Montverde (FL) Academy to a perfect 35-0 record and the Geico High School National championship title in New York City. Barrett and Montverde won their games by an average of 31.6 points per game.

    Last July, Barrett guided Canada to the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Cairo, Egypt, where he went for 38 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in a stunning semifinal upset of a U.S. team coached by Kentucky’s John Calipari.

    His resume from this past season at Montverde required a full page at the recent All-Canadian Showcase. It included being named the Wooten, Naismith, Gatorade, USA Today and MaxPreps Player of the Year, and winning Most Valuable Player honors at more than half a dozen events from China to Hawaii to South Carolina, including at the prestigious Geico Nationals. It goes without saying that he is the consensus No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2018.

    Andrew Nembhard, the Florida-bound point guard who played with Barrett at Montverde and the UPlay Canada AAU team and is his video-game buddy, says Duke is getting another special player.

    “You’re going to  get a really competitive player who’s a dog on the court and he just wants to win,” Nembhard said. “Like his main purpose is just to go there [Duke] and win as many games as he can and then move on to the next level.”

    And fittingly, his Duke career will begin at home in Canada.

    “I haven’t played in Canada for a couple years now,” he said of the Signature game, “so everybody got to see me play and see what the hype was about I guess.”

     

    SCHEDULE

    August 15, 2018, 7 p.m. ET —vs. Ryerson University — Hershey Centre

    August 17, 2018, 6 p.m. ET —vs. University of Toronto — Hershey Centre

    August 19, 2018, 3 p.m. ET — vs. McGill University — Place Bell

    Photo: Jon Lopez/ Nike

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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.