When you’re Canadian, you play basketball, and Steve Nash is your godfather, you have a lot to live up to.
But so far for R.J. Barrett, being the next great Canadian basketball player hasn’t been a difficult task. As a junior in high school, Barrett just handed the United States their first international basketball loss in six years (sadly, a US team coached by John Calipari).
After scoring 38 points to go along with 13 rebounds and five dimes, he went on to lead Canada to the U19 FIBA World Cup gold medal. That’s not just great for someone his age (he’s two years younger than most of the other players), but that’s great for any player to do that against the talent Team USA had.
And that ability is why Jonathan Tjarks says Barrett could be the best Canadian prospect ever.
At 6-foot-6 and 193 pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Barrett is an elite athlete who already has the size and speed to match up with the best perimeter players in the NBA. Team USA, which was coached by John Calipari, was stocked with NBA-caliber athletes, but none of them could guard Barrett, who scored over the top of their guards, outwitted their wings, and blew past their big men. Like James Harden and Manu Ginobili, Barrett is a left-hander who plays at his own pace and uses his ability to change speeds and score from awkward angles to keep the defense off balance.
You can read the rest of the story here, which talks about just how great Barrett already is, and how much higher his ceiling goes, and how much more interesting that makes international basketball. But this means a lot for Kentucky too, as they’re currently in the race for 2019’s top prospect.
Barrett is considering reclassifying to the 2018 recruiting class, and he likely wouldn’t miss a beat if he were to do so. If he did, Calipari could add him to what will be an already loaded roster and strengthen that Canadian pipeline he’s built. Barrett is friends with Jamal Murray, one of several Canadians that Cal has brought in at Kentucky, so there’s a chance Cal could recruit the man responsible for ending his Team USA tournament run, and break other teams’ hearts instead.
Barrett is not only a rare talent for Canada; he’s a rare talent anywhere in the world, and the sky’s the limit for him. If Calipari gets him to Kentucky, his potential would only grow even more.