New recruit RJ Barrett impressed the coaches at the New York Knicks during the June 2019 draft, having picked third in the first round for the position of small forward. Toronto native, he began his basketball career at Duke, where he was expected to perform at the highest standard. He was already considered one of the top young prospects in the world upon arrival at the drafts, averaging 14.6 points at the 2015 FIBA U16 Americas Championship. But that’s not all that Barrett has done. He has excelled in a number of other championships such as the Nike Hoop Summit and Basketball Without Borders, and gave a legendary performance in the semi-finals of the 2017 FIBA U19 NBA World Championship, scoring a whopping 38 points in a game played by a majority of other NBA draft prospects. Barrett’s first game playing for Duke set a high benchmark for what was yet to come: on August 15, 2018, he scored 34 out of 86 points in a memorable win against the Canadian Ryerson University Rams.
At 19 years old, Barrett was awarded the title of National Player of the Year by USA Today in March 2019, up against Zion Williamson. Furthermore, he achieved finalist status at the Wooden National Player of the Year award for most outstanding college basketball player, again alongside fellow Duke teammate Williamson.
Barrett is thrilled at his position as wing, because he “feel[s] like they can play the point guard position a little but then they can also get down there, down low with the bigs. I feel like that’s the perfect position to be, and I’m really excited to see how my game translates.”
From a logistical perspective, Barrett is perfectly built to excel in his career. At 6’7 and 208 pounds with a 6’10 wingspan, he has the physical dimensions to tower over other players. He is in fact completely structured to the dimensions of a typical NBA wing. But Barrett isn’t all height and weight, but also has the ability to maneuver his athlete’s body across the court with a previously unseen fluidity and control. An intelligent player with excellent scoring instinct, he is not afraid to embrace physical contact as a key aspect of his playing strategy. Barrett is extremely competitive by nature, and this shows tremendously in his defensive approach.
Barrett has shown fantastic potential in the ACC, even as a freshman at Duke. He managed to lead in scoring, with an average of 22.6 points per game, just ahead of Zion Williamson. He averaged 4.3 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game, and, most excitingly, posted the first triple-double in Duke history with 23 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists versus North Carolina State on February 16th. Barrett also set AAC freshman records with 26 20 point games and 11 assists in the NCAA East Regional Semifinals against Virginia Tech.
But Barrett’s skills did not come by accident. His father Rowan played college basketball at St John’s as well as overseas, and his mother ran track at the same university. RJ Barrett has all the tools to become the next NBA legend, provided that he improves upon his ability to get in passing lanes. Basketball fans look forward to seeing more of Barrett as he grows as a player.