UK Men's Basketball

The No. 1 basketball recruit in the 2019 class might be on the move

Per NCAA rules, college basketball coaches aren’t even allowed to start contacting Canadian phenom R.J. Barrett until June 15.

When that date comes, Barrett better have his phone charged.

Not only will he likely be bombarded by the level of calls and texts befitting a No. 1-ranked recruit — that’s his status in the 2019 class — but, in Barrett’s case, the rush to get in on his recruitment could be much more urgent.

The June 15 rule allows high school players time work on their games — and college coaches more time to evaluate them — before serious recruiting contact is made, ahead of the player’s junior season.

Right now, Barrett is a sophomore. In a few months, he very well could be a senior.

The 6-foot-7 shooting guard acknowledged at Friday night’s Nike league session in Indiana that he is considering a move to the class of 2018, which would put him one step closer to college basketball, and, ultimately, the NBA.

“Right now, I don’t really know,” he said. “Right now, I’m still 2019 and I guess we’ll make a decision in August.”

The signs point to him making the 2018 plunge, and college coaches recruiting him — obviously, there are many — are now operating under the assumption that he’ll be a senior in high school next season.

“I think there’s a pretty good possibility he does it,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “I mean, if I was the kid, I would. He’s the No. 1 prospect in his class. He’d probably be in the top two in 2018. And he’s a guy we’re projecting to be an NBA player. So, he’s good enough. He might as well get to the money quicker.”

Daniels implied that Scout.com would slot Barrett in the No. 2 spot in the 2018 rankings, right behind 6-11 star Marvin Bagley, and just ahead of talented prospects like Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford and Cameron Reddish.

All four of those players already have scholarship offers from Kentucky.

It’s just a matter of time before Barrett gets his.

“He’s a versatile scorer and a really talented passer,” Daniels said. “He’s skilled. He’s pretty good from mid-range and in right now. I think the next step is working on his long-range jump shot. And the kid appears to be a very hard worker, so I think that will come in time.

“At 6-7, he can do so much.”

If he does reclassify, Barrett will have a lot to learn as he dives into the recruiting process.

Asked specifically about Kentucky, he said he didn’t really know much more than what he’s seen on TV, then added that he does have a tie to the Wildcats.

“Jamal (Murray) is one of my friends and to watch him play at Kentucky was something special,” he said. “He said he loved it and it helped him get at the league, so he’s thankful.”

Barrett, who made the move from Canada to America before his freshman year of high school, averaged 22 points and seven rebounds per game for a loaded Montverde (Fla.) squad this past season, earning national sophomore of the year honors from MaxPreps.com.

He was a star at the Basketball Without Borders camp earlier this year and was the youngest player at the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this month, playing in a game against the top American players from the class of 2017.

He averaged 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists for the Team Canada U17 squad last summer. He played on the Nike EYBL circuit as a freshman last year.

“He’s very experienced,” Daniels said. “Honestly, he’s had as many — if not more — experiences than most of these 2018 kids, because of what he’s been exposed to in international competition.

“This is a guy that has had plenty of experiences playing against older players. The transition (to 2018) ought to be smooth.”

Barrett’s father, former St. John’s standout and pro basketball player Rowan Barrett, is the assistant general manager and executive VP of the Canadian national team. The younger Barrett might not know much about UK, but his father sure does. Rowan Barrett praised UK Coach John Calipari and his ability to get players ready for the NBA in an interview with the Herald-Leader a couple of months ago.

“Obviously, there are a lot of NBA players that … were very happy with their time at Kentucky,” he said then. “I think that’s a great thing.”

The NBA is obviously the ultimate goal for R.J. Barrett.

Still just 16 years old, it’s seemingly only a matter of time before he gets there.

Barrett has the game to go far. He’s got the mentality, too.

“No matter what environment I go to — I could be playing against LeBron James and the best players in the world — I always think I can do my thing,” he said. “It’s just that confidence that I have.”

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