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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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Saturday / May 25.
  • R.J. Barrett meets with Knicks, Grizzlies in Chicago

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    CHICAGO — Duke star R.J. Barrett met Wednesday with the Knicks and Grizzlies at the Hilton Chicago before departing for Los Angeles, league sources said.

    After the Knicks landed the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft, ZAGSBLOG first reported Tuesday that Barrett would meet with the Knicks Wednesday.

    Meantime, ESPN reported that Memphis will take Murray State guard Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick after New Orleans takes Duke phenom Zion Williamson. That would clear the way for the Knicks to select Barrett at No. 3.

    The 6-foot-7 Barrett, 19, was unavailable for comment after the meeting, and Knicks President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry rushed out of the hotel without speaking to a group of Knicks reporters. Perry said he had to rush to make his car.

    So far this week, Isiah Thomas and Patrick Ewing are the only people affiliated with the Knicks who have spoken with the media.

    “R.J. is one of those players,” Thomas, the Hall of Famer and former Knicks President and coach, said before the lottery. “Not only did he show it at Duke, but he showed it in high school. He’s been one of the top-rated players in the country and also in basketball over the last four or five years so he’s not a surprise to anyone.”

    Ewing, the last player to be selected No. 1 by the Knicks in 1985 and now the Georgetown coach, said: “You look at all the [draft prospects] that are in this room, they all have very good talent. They all have very great abilities. And whoever we pick is going to be somebody that’s going to help rebuild the franchise.”

    The Barrett family is very familiar with New York City, so R.J. should be able to handle the pressure that comes with playing in the Big Apple. Rowan Barrett, now the head of Canada Basketball, played college ball at St. John’s. Kesha Duhaney, R.J.’s mother, met Rowan at St. John’s, where she was a sprinter on the track and field team.

    Rowan took R.J. to play on the playgrounds in Brooklyn to hone his game as a child.

    “We’d go to see family and take him out to the blacktop,” Rowan told SLAM. “I went to school in New York so I’d just travel to Harlem and Coney Island. I had an understanding of what that was and how important it was for him. The city game isn’t a lot of jump shots—it’s a lot of going to the rim, figuring out how to get to the rim. No one calls foul. All the trash talk, the chatter. Can you play while someone is talking to you? Don’t look over to the side. Daddy can’t help you. So we’d take him there in the summer and it was great for his development in terms of toughness. He learned the European way, and then he played in Brooklyn.”

    While starring at Montverde (FL) Academy for legendary coach Kevin Boyle, Barrett never played at Madison Square Garden, though.

    Barrett was the consensus high school National Player of the Year two seasons ago, and led Montverde (Fla.) Academy to an undefeated season and the GEICO High School National Championship at Christ the King High School. In 2016, his Montverde team lost in the semifinals of what was then called the DICK’S Sporting Goods High Schools Nationals. Had they beaten a Brian Bowen-led La Lumiere (Ind.) team in that 2016 semifinal, Barrett would have played his first game at the Garden in April 2016.

    “We lost in the semifinals so we couldn’t come play here,” Barrett said in December.

    Barrett finally played his first game at Madison Square Garden in December when he went for 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting as Duke beat Texas Tech. Afterward, he dressed in the Knicks locker room.

    “I mean, it’s cool,” Barrett told SNY.tv of being in the Knicks locker room. “You grow up watching these teams play on TV and you get to be in the locker room. I’m sitting at my guy Allonzo Trier’s locker and he’s my guy, so it’s a great experience for us.”

    Barrett has drawn comparisons to fellow left-hander James Harden  and Tracy McGrady.

    “I think his mentality is more like Kobe [Bryant] because he’s very driven, he’s very confident but he’s a good teammate,” Barrett’s AAU coach Dwayne Washington said. “The Harden thing is because he’s left-handed.” Washington added that Harden was primarily known as a shooter, while Barrett may be a better ball-handler at this stage.

    Barrett is part of a rising tide of Canadian talent. As many as a half dozen Canadians could be drafted next month, including Barrett, Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort, Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Florida State’s Mfiondu Kabengele and Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis.

    “It’s definitely cool to see, especially all the guys I grew up with,” Barrett said in December. “Everybody’s doing well and everybody’s achieving their goals so it’s great to see Canadian basketball on the rise.”

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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.