UK Men's Basketball

R.J. Barrett’s father talks about recruit’s move to 2018, offers thoughts on Calipari

R.J. Barrett led Team Canada to a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Egypt in July
R.J. Barrett led Team Canada to a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Egypt in July

It’s been expected for months, but it finally happened Monday.

R.J. Barrett — the high school basketball sensation from Canada — announced that he is moving to the recruiting class of 2018 and will have just one more season before he starts his college career.

Barrett — a 6-foot-7 shooting guard at Montverde Academy (Fla.) — will immediately jump to the top of UK’s recruiting board for the 2018 class and might ultimately end up as the No. 1-ranked player from that group.

The 17-year-old prospect announced his reclassification plans on his USA Today blog Monday afternoon, and his father, Rowan Barrett, spoke to the Herald-Leader about the decision a short time later.

“You’re gauging your performance throughout the year, and you’re gauging your academic performance — all of the things that he would need to be able to do to make something like that possible — he’s done all that,” Rowan Barret said. “It’s all laid out properly. And he’s made this decision.”

Barrett had been the No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2019, and immediately placed him in the No. 2 spot in its 2018 rankings, behind only Marvin Bagley, who is contemplating a move to the 2017 class.

If Bagley reclassifies — a decision on that should come soon — Barrett would take over the No. 1 spot in the rankings for 2018.

R.J. Barrett is the No. 1 player in the 2019 class, but he might be moving to 2018 soon.

Barrett averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists during the FIBA U19 World Cup in Egypt in early July, leading Team Canada to its first basketball gold medal at any level. The run to the championship included an upset of John Calipari’s USA Basketball squad in the semifinals. Barrett had 38 points and 13 rebounds in that game.

“R.J. Barrett is an explosive scorer,”’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader recently. “He’s got good size, length, athletic ability. And he’s equipped to score the ball in a variety of ways. The scary thing with him is that he’s not a great shooter yet. So there are still areas for improvement. And he’s a kid with a strong work ethic and a lot of upside.”

As part of his reclassification announcement, Barrett mentioned Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Texas and UCLA as the schools showing the most interest in his recruitment.

Rowan Barrett, who said his son has already passed the SAT and has everything lined up academically to successfully reclassify, had been handling the bulk of R.J.’s recruitment until June 15, when college coaches were first allowed to start contacting class of 2019 prospects directly.

“He felt that he was now ready to start to build his own relationship with coaches, so, really, from June 15, he’s been fielding calls and texting along with the different coaches and finding out more about their programs,” Rowan told the Herald-Leader. “The next stage will be to officially cut the list and then figure out which ones you’re going to go visit. We’re just kind of getting into that now.”

Rowan Barrett, a Team Canada basketball official and former standout at St. John’s, did not say which schools would get official visits, but he had kind words for Calipari and his UK program.

“John Calipari’s a great guy,” Barrett told the Herald-Leader. “I don’t think we need to waste a whole lot of time talking about coaching, because clearly he knows what he’s doing between the lines. It seems that he knows how to get out the talent that’s inside the athlete that he coaches, which is important as well. And, obviously, they win a lot.

“There are a lot of positives. I love the fact that he fights for his guys, and it really seems to be a priority to him that they do well in their lives, not just them being athletes, but it seems like he really cares about the whole individual, even after they leave Kentucky’s walls. So, yeah, I think he’s great.”