The most accomplished teenaged Canadian basketball prospect since Andrew Wiggins will play college basketball at Duke next year.
R.J. Barrett, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2018 class, chose the Blue Devils over fellow finalists Kentucky and Oregon on Friday evening.
“I’m really happy I got it off my chest,” Barrett said after making his televised announcement in Canada. “Everyone knows now and I can’t wait to get there.”
A 6-foot-6 wing with a blossoming offensive game, Barrett is especially adept at attacking off the dribble, sometimes using his strength and body control to score himself and other times displaying tremendous court vision while creating for his teammates. He’s electric in transition, he rebounds well for a guard and has the size, wingspan and athleticism to one day become an elite perimeter defender.
Barrett’s commitment cements Duke’s 2018 recruiting class as college basketball’s best no matter what players other top programs land during the late signing period. The Blue Devils also have commitments from the top-ranked small forward, Cameron Reddish, and the highest-ranked point guard, Tre Jones, the younger brother of former national title-winning Duke point guard Tyus Jones.
In a brief televised interview after his commitment, Barrett said his plan is to spend only one year at Duke before leaving for the NBA. There’s a chance that he and Reddish could go 1-2 in the 2019 NBA draft if both live up to their potential as freshmen at Duke.
Barrett offered a glimpse of his dynamic ability last summer while starring at small forward for Team Canada at the FIBA U-19 World Championships in Egypt. Even though he was two years younger than many of the top players at the event, he was the best player on the floor, leading Canada to its first men’s global basketball title.
The performance that left many jaws agape was Barrett’s 38-point, 13-rebound, 5-assist tour de force in Canada’s 99-87 semifinal victory over the U.S team coached by John Calipari. For a country perpetually overshadowed by its neighbor to the south in basketball, it was a landmark achievement that will long be remembered.
Barrett will likely be part of some memorable victories at Duke next season given the talent that will surround him. In addition to his fellow incoming freshmen, Duke could easily return current freshman and former five-star recruit Gary Trent Jr., giving the Blue Devils an array of perimeter talent that would be tough for any other program to match.