R.J. Barrett is in the conversation for the best high school basketball player on the planet, but you won’t find him playing at any AAU event during the recruiting frenzy of July.
After leading Canada to a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Cup on Sunday in Egypt, the 6-foot-7 guard will shut it down for the remainder of the month and then announce his decision about reclassification sometime in August.
“He won’t be playing anymore, he’s going to shut it down right now physically,” Rowan Barrett, R.J.’s father and the Executive Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Canada Basketball, told FanRagSports.com Tuesday by phone.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Barrett earned MVP honors at the World Cup after averaging 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. In the semifinals against Kentucky head coach John Calipari and the United States, Barrett went off for 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in a 99-87 victory for Canada. He then followed that with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in a 79-60 win over Italy in the gold medal game.
Barrett’s latest accomplishment with his team brought national glory to Canada, which had never before won a gold medal in an Olympics or World Championship. He was previously named MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Camp at the NBA All-Star Game, where he impressed numerous NBA personnel.
— FIBA (@FIBA) July 9, 2017
Had Barrett’s AAU team, UPlay Canada, qualified for this week’s Peach Jam, he might have competed there, but instead he’ll continue to rest. He may make an appearance at the UPlay Signature Camp July 29-30 in Toronto, but he won’t play there.
“I just wish he was in Peach Jam, I would like to see him go against some of those guys,” said UPlay Canada coach Dwayne Washington, Barrett’s AAU coach.
“He’s going to rest a little bit and then he’s going to be training and working on his skills and his body,” Rowan Barrett said.
As one would expect, a ton of coaches have reached out to both Rowan Barrett and to Washington.
“Yeah, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, USC, those have been probably the ones that have been most constant,” Rowan said.
Said Washington: “All the bluebloods. It’s Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, UCLA and UNLV, and that’s it.”
The elder Barrett said no college visits have yet been planned.
“We are debating that right now, just trying to figure out some travel,” he said. “We’re trying to look at potentially having him go on the West Coast for a little bit to do some training, and if we do that then we might stop out there and then whatever’s close to here. We’re not trying to make that an objective right now.”
That could mean visits to some combination of Arizona, UCLA, USC and Oregon later this summer. Oregon, in particular, has a strong recent history of Canadian players, including Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis and Chris Boucher.
Meantime, Barrett has always intended to announce his decision on reclassification in August. Several notable Canadians have opted to re-class ahead a year after attending school in the U.S., including former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, against whom Barrett has played one-on-one and with whom he has been compared.
“When the EYBL season and the Canadian team competition is over, I will sit down sometime in August with my dad and discuss the possibilities of re-classifying to the senior class,” Barrett previously told ESPN. “I understand that it’s a big jump, but I am open to the possibilities both academically and athletically.”
Rowan Barrett said August is still the plan.
“Yeah, we’re going to have something coming out right at the beginning of August there,” he said. “We’re going to make it clear what we’re going to do. We know what we want to do and we think it’s fair for everyone to know what we want. We talked about it. He just went away, now he’s back and we want to make sure that he’s still feeling the way that he is, and then we’ll come out and make a choice. And I want to do that in a very, very planned way.”
Assuming Barrett does re-class, he would join a loaded Class of 2018 that currently has Marvin Bagley Jr., Zion Williamson and Bol Bol sitting atop the rankings.
Barrett would then be eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft after a one-and-done year someplace. His high school coach, Kevin Boyle of Montverde (FL) Academy, has coached numerous No. 1 and lottery picks, including Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell. He believes Barrett should be in the conversation for No. 1.
“He showed he could step up against the best players in the world,” Boyle told ZAGSBLOG. “I’ve said all along he’s the No. 1 pick in the draft.”
Washington said Barrett would be especially motivated to become the third No. 1 pick from Canada following Anthony Bennett and Wiggins.
“If he re-classes, he’s going to be with Bagley and Zion Williamson, I think he should be [No.] 1 but I’m biased,” he said. “I think somebody like him, if he goes like 3 or 4 [in the Draft], that would eat him up his whole career and he will use that as fire.
“So personally I know how he thinks. He’s like a Kobe, his mentality is very serious. He’s 27 years old mentally. I think he could be [No.] 1. I think his performance is going to render that he should be 1. All things being even, I believe that he’s right there… I know that R.J.’s not that concerned with that right now, R.J.’s just concerned with being his best. And his best is pretty high.”
Adam Zagoria is a basketball insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.