There is buzz that surrounds all announcements for each signing period, but when the No. 1 prospect of a class commits it is a true spectacle. R.J. Barrett, the Canadian via Montverde Academy in Florida, is the top player in the 2018 class and will be announcing his decision on Friday, November 10th.
Barrett will choose between the Duke Blue Devils, Oregon Ducks, and Kentucky Wildcats. While there has definitely been speculation otherwise, Duke has always been the favorite. Landing Barrett would give them the top player two seasons in a row after snagging Marvin Bagley last year.
The 6’6” wing can do it all, and really showed the world what he can do in leading Team Canada to a gold medal in the U19 FIBA Championships in Egypt this summer. On his way to that medal, he torched Team USA, coached by John Calipari, in going for 38 points in the semi-final game.
So is all of the Duke hype real, or will we have another Kevin Knox situation on our hands and see Barrett commit to Kentucky? The staff here at A Sea of Blue offer up their predictions.
A month ago, I was convinced that R.J. Barrett was signed, sealed and delivered to Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. But while the national experts are convinced that Duke's a lock to get the nation's top player, my gut tells me that there's a crack in the ole' crystal ball. In fact, I'm predicting that UK pulls off a stunner on Friday as Barrett will pick the Cats during a live announcement.
So what's changed? In this case, it's about what's stayed familiar. It's been widely reported that Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, both Canadians, have a special relationship (think Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis). In fact, Barrett considers Gilgeous-Alexander a “big brother” and the best friends talk every day. Let me say that again - R.J. and Shai are really tight and talk every single day.
How’s that for a recruiting pitch?
With Gilgeous-Alexander almost a certainty to return next year, Barrett will have a “wing man” to help him navigate the difficult transition of college life while learning all about “positionless” basketball on his path to the NBA. In this case, Gilgeous-Alexander also gets a “wing man” that can take it to the rim and hit the three. Sounds like a win-win for this dynamic duo and a huge victory for Big Blue Nation.
R.J. Barrett is down to Kentucky, Duke and Oregon. He has been linked to Duke for awhile now but Kentucky has made up a lot of ground. I don’t think it is enough for Kentucky, and I have been saying not to count out Oregon. Rumors have been Barrett likes Kentucky but his Dad likes Duke. Since his Dad has been in charge of the recruitment, I think that’s where he’ll end up. I don’t think he will be helped defensively by going there, but it’s been all Duke for the predictors for awhile now.
PREDICTION: Puke, I mean Duke.
R.J. Barrett is a stud. I’ll be honest, I had no clue who the kid was until he destroyed Cal and Team USA earlier in the summer. I’ve been torn on who I wanted more between Barrett and Zion Williamson, and I’ll be happy with either or especially happy with both. That being said, I think Barrett picks Duke, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be a Kevin Knox type of commitment, where the rumblings say one school, but he swerves everyone and picks another. For Barrett, I think Duke is the favorite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked Oregon or Kentucky.
Duke wins again. This may be the kid I’d want at UK most of all (tied, I guess, with Zion Williamson) but I just don’t see it. I feel like he was swayed by the Duke mystique (although Oregon could still have a pull). And even with the recent following of all of the UK guys on Twitter, I just remember how Marques Bolden did the exact same thing before committing to Duke. I sometimes wonder if that has become part of the plan for kids who want to throw everyone else off the trail. So I’ll call Duke for this one. But man do I hope I’m wrong. This kid can flat-out score, and we need that in Lexington.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Calipari pulls this one away from Duke. When Marvin Bagley picked the Blue Devils, this suddenly became a huge must-get for Kentucky. While I don’t think that’s so much the case now (thanks to Kentucky gaining ground in recruitments like Keldon Johnson, Bol Bol and Zion Williamson), it’s still going to be a big loss for Kentucky. Duke’s recruiting class is looking pretty good, and it’s always a battle between the Cats and Blue Devils for the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.
R.J. Barrett is the real deal. If you watched any of the U19 games in Egypt, you saw that this kid can play and can flat out score. If he comes to Kentucky, he could end up being one of the top 3-5 players that Coach Cal has brought to Lexington. Landing him alone would likely push Kentucky to the No. 1 preseason ranking and make them the favorite in Vegas for the championship in 2019.
All that said, I do not think he ends up at Kentucky. I have been wrong before (thank you, Kevin Knox), but if I had to put money on this one I would predict the No. 1 recruit landing at Duke. It always hurts to lose a kid to them, especially one of Barrett's caliber, but they have been the favorite for awhile now and I believe the early announcement confirms those rumors.
R.J. Barrett is the type of player I want to see in a Kentucky uniform. The 6-6 small forward who is ranked first in the ESPN top 100 list is going to be making his college decision Friday night and he will either be a Wildcat or a Blue Devil.
If Calipari can land Barrett, he will be getting an explosive lefty who can finish at the rim and has a good-looking jump shot. In the Cal era, true small forwards are something we haven’t had the luxury of having except for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and we all know how that season ended.
Most of the experts tend to believe that Duke has run away with his recruitment, but I believe it is much closer than people think. With Duke adding Cam Reddish, the No. 3 player in the 2018 class who is also a small forward, could help push Barrett to the Cats. While I believe Duke is the most likely destination, I will not be surprised if on Friday night we see Barrett put on a Kentucky hat.
R.J. Barrett is the top-ranked ranked player in 2018. He's a 6-6 player that's listed as a small forward but he has the handles of a guard. John Calipari made Barrett a priority after watching him torch Team USA in Egypt. I think, along with Zion Williamson and Immanuel Quickley, Barrett is one of the players he covets the most. Wherever he ends up, he will immediately be an impact player.
Duke has all the momentum right now. If Kentucky does lose out on Barrett, the 6-6 Keldon Johnson will be ready to pull the trigger not far behind. I do think Barrett ends up a Blue Devil.
R.J. Barrett is unquestionably the No. 1 prospect in the 2018 class, since he reclassified earlier this year. While he’s not as flashy as the No. 2 recruit Zion Williamson, Barrett possesses a bevy of weapons that will make him a valuable addition to whichever team is able to land him for next year. He’s versatile and can score in a variety of ways. He can take defenders off the bounce and likes to finish strong at the rim. He also has a decent outside shot. He has good court vision and can facilitate as well as score on his own.
Barrett is going to make an impact wherever he goes, including Kentucky. While it’s unclear who from the 2017 class will be leaving for the draft next spring, there could be room made for a player like Barrett on the Cats’ roster, even with so many “positionless” players like him already there. All that being said, Barrett has been leaning Duke for awhile and I don’t think even his positive visit to Lexington last month will be enough to move the needle for him; although I hope I’m wrong.
R.J. Barrett is the crown jewel of the 2018 recruiting class, even more so than Zion Williams. He is on another realm of talent than the rest of his class. At Kentucky, he could make the kind of impact on a team that John Wall and Anthony Davis made; the kid is a superstar in the making.
Not only would he make the 2018-19 Cats much better, but he would be another one of those guys who serve as a face for the program while in the NBA. Unfortunately, the perception is that he is going to be Duke bound on Friday and I have no reason to believe they aren’t the favorite.
With that said, Kentucky still has a chance to land him because of his relationship with Cal and Cal’s previous coaching of Canadian players (Murray, Lyles, Gilgeous-Alexander). It is okay to be quietly optimistic about Barrett. He may go to Duke, but it won’t be that Kentucky didn’t have a great shot.
So, what say you? Where is R.J. Barrett spending his one year of college basketball?