Today is the big day…
The No. 1 prospect in the class of 2018, RJ Barrett, is deciding at 6:00 p.m. tonight, and the Wildcats are in his final three along with Duke and Oregon.
Barrett is considered one of the most gifted scorers in recent recruiting memory, and will likely become an All-NBA talent in just a few years. This kid has that “it” factor you look for in a top prospect.
In the FIBA U19 World Championships, Barrett dropped 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists for Team Canada against Calipari’s Team USA squad in early July. At the end of the month, the five-star forward out of Canada reclassified from the class of 2019 to 2018, and almost immediately, Calipari made him a top priority.
Will Coach Cal’s efforts pay off?
Let’s break down his recruitment:
We’ve seen it before in the past, and just like every other time, it is causing a stir amongst all fanbases involved.
Barrett is playing the social media game with fans, liking and following different team-specific things for misdirection. Here are some of his most recent follows…
Other recent follows? Jamal Murray, PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, and John Calipari, along with Duke commitments Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.
But no sign of Oregon? Hmm…
That’s not stopping the Ducks from making one last pitch on Twitter:
Fun fact: Oregon has had at least one Canadian on the roster for five consecutive seasons. We stand on GUARD for thee! pic.twitter.com/yncY74Rd2w
— Oregon Basketball (@OregonMBB) November 9, 2017
He’s releasing a documentary series leading up to the announcement:
THE ANNOUNCEMENT PT 1
RJ Barrett, the No. 1 high school player in the nation, will be announcing tomorrow which college he will be taking his talents to.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 9, 2017
The No. 1 HS player in the world, RJ Barrett, announces his college decision tomorrow.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) November 9, 2017
Lastly, he’s ready to decide:
— Drew Hanlen (@DrewHanlen) November 10, 2017
What are the analysts saying?
Duke has been the rumored favorite for a while, but for what reason?
Following an in-home visit with the Blue Devil coaching staff, almost every recruiting analyst has picked Duke for the five-star forward. Duke assistant Jeff Capel is known to run his mouth to the media, and even the slightest bit of confidence he feels is translated as gospel to those that talk to him. Thus, Duke ALWAYS seems to be a “lock” for prospects, when that may not be true.
In an interview with NPH National Scout Tariq Sbiet, someone that has followed Barrett’s game and recruitment since the eighth grade, weighed in on Kentucky’s chances and where he ultimately think the five-star prospect ends up.
“The biggest thing RJ cares about is, where will he go to position and prepare himself best for the NBA. He’s going to be there for one year and with Kentucky they have carved out a niche being a one and done NBA factory. That’s where I think Kentucky holds a little bit of an advantage because of that reputation. However, that is not to say both Duke and Oregon do not produce NBA talent,” said Sbiet.
“I know they have kept everything in house. Nobody really knows except for, I would say, RJ, his dad and his mom. My guess is, he’s going to Oregon,” said Sbiet.
Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader interviewed Scout’s Evan Daniels, who said Duke is not the massive favorite everyone makes them out to be. The Blue Devils may have a slight lead, but there is definitely suspense going into the announcement.
“I think it’s a pretty tight race,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Thursday evening. “It’s been my belief that Duke has been out in front, but obviously anything can happen. And he certainly hasn’t eliminated those other schools. I think there will be a little suspense heading into this announcement.”
Corey Evans of Rivals.com told Roberts that Oregon has a solid shot and the Wildcats have the ability to come in for the big steal.
“I will say that I’m rather on the fence about it,” Evans said. “I think that Oregon has a much better chance than people realize. And I’m not downplaying Kentucky.
“Kentucky has been good for coming out of the woodwork and stealing a guy every now and again, aka Kevin Knox.”
Most people are picking Duke, but it’s not a done deal.
Kentucky’s recent history with talented Canadian prospects seems to be one of the most overlooked aspects of this. Barrett is very good friends with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the two reportedly talk more often than we realize. Barrett’s AAU coach Dwayne Robinson told SEC Country the five-star forward is like a “brother” to Kentucky’s true freshman.
Barrett “talks to Shai every day,” Washington said. “Shai is like his big brother. They train in the summer, they hang out, Shai works with him and shows him a lot of stuff. Shai is very serious and focused, so if he picks a school, you really gotta take it seriously.”
Washington also told SEC Country that Barrett’s family is very serious about player development with top prospects, something Gilgeous-Alexander told the top prospect on his official visit to Kentucky a while back.
“It was good for the family to see and echo everything about why Shai went there: because they can make you better,” Washington said. “If you’re somebody who is No. 1 in the class, you definitely have to say, ‘What did they do with the other No. 1 guys?’ Who is getting those players to be better than they are, noticeably, in a short period of time?”
Also, Jamal Murray is reportedly close with Barrett and has supposedly been in touch with him about the Wildcats. He told Adam Zagoria watching Murray at Kentucky was “special.”
“Jamal is one of my friends and to watch him play for Kentucky was something special. He said he loved it. It helped him get to the league, so he’s thankful.”
Barrett is also deciding on the same Canadian television station Murray did a few years back.
Speaking of which, check out who was behind Murray at his announcement in 2015…
Is that RJ Barrett’s Dad behind Jamal? pic.twitter.com/beaPu7KYJm
— Colton Covington (@C_Cov) November 10, 2017
You guessed it, RJ Barrett’s father, Rowan.
RJ Barrett has pride in his country, and the Kentucky Wildcats have a pretty darn good track record with Canadians.
Trey Lyles, Murray, Mychal Mulder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander… Barrett?
My gut says Duke, but this has been a very Kevin Knox-like recruitment.
Barrett’s family doesn’t talk much, if at all, similar to Knox. People made educated guesses for Knox initially, and eventually, everyone took it as gospel. No one picked the Cats, and most believed it would either be Duke or North Carolina. Is Barrett’s situation much different?
All buzz is with Duke, quiet whispers are talking about Oregon, and things are eerily quiet about Kentucky. Which one wins out, no one knows.
I’m going in assuming the worst with the Blue Devils, but I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if Coach Cal pulled this off.
Regardless, this has the potential to be a massive recruiting night for the Wildcats, or a heartbreaking one.
Let’s hope for the former.
Come on down, RJ.