CHICAGO—R.J. Barrett currently sits at No. 1 in the Scout.com Class of 2019 player rankings and the 6'7" wing looked the part of top player this weekend at the Chicago Elite Classic.
A smooth and athletic player who burst on the scene as a freshman with Montverde Academy last season, Barrett has done a great job of handling expectations over the past year as he's developed a big national reputation despite only being a sophomore.
Barrett has provided the production to match his No. 1 status as he's been outstanding in international competitions and at the high school level. Barrett has been excellent for Montverde—a school that plays a national schedule and routinely competes for national championships. He's also potentially the future of Canadian basketball, as he played with the U17 World Championship team this summer and led them in scoring at 18.4 points per game.
Even though Barrett is fighting for No. 1 in his class and being asked to participate a lot for his national team, his goal is to make his father, former St. John's star Rowan Barrett, proud. R.J. isn't caught up in recruiting or the hype of being a potential star during his sophomore season. He just wants to improve his game and let that do the talking.
"My dad went far in basketball, so I just see that there are still people that are better than me," Barrett said of managing expectations. "So I try to play like an underdog and I'm just trying to surpass my dad."
Having a father who was a long-time professional basketball player also helps teach R.J. some tricks about playing at a high level. With effortless dunks in transition, scoring plays from all three levels and rebounds in traffic, Barrett has the athletic makeup and IQ to be a special player.
"It helps a lot," R.J. said of his dad giving advice. "There's a lot of things that he's dealt with that he keeps me out of trouble with. It helps when he knows so much about the game."
Barrett made it look easy at times this past weekend in a win over Evanston at the UIC Pavilion as he finished with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. He also mpressed on the defensive end. But he certainly knows there are still strides to be made, and he's focused on improving his jumper and being a better all-around player.
Montverde has a loaded roster this season and Barrett is trying to do his part to be a primary scorer while also not forcing things.
"It's great. We have so many people who move the ball. We have so many threats. When you move the ball, you don't know what's going to happen, so that makes my job a lot easier," Barrett said.
One of Barrett's teammates on Montverde is 5-star sophomore point guard Andrew Nembhard—also a Canadian who has played with the national team. In addition, junior North Carolina commit Rechon Black joined the roster this year.
With a lot of college eyes on him as he gets older, Barrett realizes he'll have to pick a school at some point, but he's just focused on getting better for now.
"I'm a sophomore, so I don't really know [about recruiting] right now. They just go through my dad," Barrett said. "The focus right now is just basketball. I'm not really thinking about it right now. I'm not sure what I'm looking for."
Taking a low-key approach and just having fun and playing basketball is what Barrett is looking for at the moment but he has big plans for his basketball future. He's worked out a bit with the senior Canadian men's national team, playing with pros like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson as he hopes to play in the Olympics in the future.
"I think everybody's goal is to make the NBA. My goal is to be a star," Barrett said.
The Present and the Future are Bright for UCLA
The talk of college basketball early this season has been locked in on UCLA star freshman Lonzo Ball.
The Bruins are up to No. 2 in the AP Poll this week as their offense has been one of the best in college basketball this season. Recruiting has also been strong in future classes and it has the Bruins in great position to withstand losses after this season.
Also owning a commitment from the youngest Ball brother, Class of 2019 guard LaMelo Ball, the Bruins can now hone in on younger classes to try and continue this wave of national recruiting success.
Zion Williamson Making a Run at Class of 2018's Top Spot
Perhaps no player in high school basketball is off to a better start than junior 5-star forward Zion Williamson this season. The South Carolina native is currently regarded as the No. 2 player in the Class of 2018 behind Marvin Bagley III, but Williamson could be making a run to the top of the class.
Williamson had a 50-point and 16-rebound performance during Thanksgiving week at the Tournament of Champions before following that up with games of 41 points and 43 points within the last week.
Scoring at that kind of level is going to put him in the discussion for the No. 1 spot as Williamson has been a double-double machine during the early part of the season. He's the type of powerful wing who can be a major difference-maker at the college level.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting ratings are via Scout.com and all quotes and information were obtained firsthand.