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.
Fellow college players say R.J. Barrett will ‘bring happiness to Knicks fans’
By ADAM ZAGORIACHICAGO — R.J. Barrett’s fellow college basketball players are big fans of his game and believe he would “bring happiness to the Knicks fans.”
“R.J.’s a very confident kid,” fellow Canadian Nickeil Alexander-Walker out of Virginia Tech said at the NBA Draft Combine. “Going to New York, you need to have some self-confidence and pride in yourself and I feel like he’ll definitely bring happiness to the Knicks fans.”
The 6-foot-7 Barrett met here in Chicago Tuesday with Knicks President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry, who declined comment on the meeting. Barrett also met with Memphis, but the Grizzlies are expected to take Murray State point guard Ja Morant at No. 2, leaving the Knicks free to take Barrett at No. 3. Morant also told reporters he he had “great” meeting with the Knicks.
Playing alongside Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish last season at Duke, Barrett led the team in scoring at 22.6 points per game along with 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
“He’s an elite scorer,” said Alexander-Walker, two years older than Barrett. “He’s shown that at a very high level being in the ACC and I feel like whatever he teams he goes to, he going to be a competitor, a guy with aggression and a guy who could score the ball.”
Canada has produced two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, Barrett’s Godfather, as well as back-to-back No. 1 picks in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. Still, Alexander-Walker believes Barrett could end up being the best Canadian ever.
“Yes, he does have the chance,” he said.
The left-hander has been compared to James Harden because of his scoring ability. Entering his senior season at Montverde (FL) Academy, he led Team Canada to a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Championship in Egypt, beating a John Calipari-led USA team in the semifinals along the way. Barrett went for 38 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in that game and then led Canada to its first gold medal on the international stage with a win over Italy in the final.
“After winning the World Championship, that Canadian team put us on the map,” Alexander-Walker said. “Toronto basketball, Canadian basketball, I feel is continually evolving.”
Reddish, a fellow projected Top 10 pick, also believes Barrett could make an impact quickly in the NBA.
“He’ll bring aggression, competitiveness and leadership,” Reddish said. “He’s a great guy to be around. The teammates will love him, he’s just a great guy to be around.”
The Knicks didn’t win the Zion Williamson Sweepstakes, but they could end up getting Williamson’s close friend Barrett, who was the projected No. 1 pick in the Draft entering the season.
“I mean, I think he’ll be fine [in New York],” Reddish said. “Playing at Duke this year, he had a lot of attention on him so I think he’s ready for that.”
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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.