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Was R.J. Barrett closer to committing to Kentucky than he led on?


It seems like since the day that R.J. Barrett first burst onto the national college basketball scene back last summer, it was inevitable that he was headed to Duke. The Canadian wing, who dropped 38 points on a John Calipari-led Team USA club at last summer’s FIBA U-19 World Cup grew up a Duke fan, and once he reclassified to the Class of 2018 (he was originally a 2019 recruit) it seemed to be a matter of “when” not “if” he’d end up a Blue Devil.

That “when” came in early November when Barrett officially declared for Duke, picking the Blue Devils over Kentucky and Oregon on decision day. But what if “Barrett to Duke” wasn’t nearly as done of a deal as everyone made it out to be?

It sounds crazy, but that’s what Barrett claims. Earlier this week at the Nike Hoops Summit, KSR asked Barrett about the recruiting process and he dropped a shocking note: “Barrett to Duke” wasn’t nearly as much of a lock as everyone made it out to be.

“I mean, I’ve always liked Duke,” he said following practice at the Nike Hoops Summit on Thursday. “Kentucky and Oregon were high on the list too. So I really had no idea until the day before. It was tough.”

He continued.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do.”

Maybe Barrett is playing nice, or maybe, just maybe he really did consider other schools. It’s not as though Coach Cal didn’t make a strong sell to Barrett, essentially telling him that the 38-point performance against Team USA was just a preview of things to come if he were to commit to Kentucky. And Barrett’s own AAU coach confessed to spending quite a bit of time speaking with the UK coaching staff once Barrett officially decided to reclassify over the summer, according to SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker.

Again, Barrett’s ultimate choice was Duke, but if his decision really did come down to the wire, could it have possibly been Kentucky had he not chosen Duke?

Barrett with coy when asked that question.

“I wouldn’t know that either,” Barrett said when asked where he would have gone if he didn’t chose Duke. “Kentucky and Oregon were right beside each other.”

It’s no surprise that all these months later that Barrett is playing nice, and claiming that he had no leader behind Duke.

Still, watch the video closely and you can see a glimmer in Barrett’s eye when he talks about those other schools.

Doesn’t it look like he’s thinking “Kentucky” even if he didn’t say it?

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at ATorres00@gmail.com. He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

33 responses to “Was R.J. Barrett closer to committing to Kentucky than he led on?”

  1. TreyTingle

    Who cares, he’s a Puke Blue Devil. All I care about is Keldon Johnson locking him up in November.

    1. Luether

      Anybody but Dook…

    2. wildcat2012

      Amen. It’s so dumb KSR posts stuff like this. Who cares how close anyone ever is to picking us… if they didn’t pick us then we shouldn’t give them any of our attention.

    3. bigb

      Who cares is right. NEXT

  2. BBN_strive_4_9

    Aaron, you write some good articles, but cut the dUKe crap. They went to dUKe end of story

    1. KYcats11

      Wow. Aaron Torres was arguably the best writer on KSR for quite a while. While I still like him and his work, his past 2 articles have been BAD.

  3. terwilliger

    Agree, get off this guy’s nuts already.

  4. BBNDan7

    TJ Walker> Aaron Torres

  5. Rick_S

    I agree get this crap outta here ,,, write about UK or our players

  6. MadHatter

    Oh my god, who the hell caresssss

    -peter griffin

  7. slangterm

    Who cares, he went to Duke. Might as well have a contagious airborne disease.

  8. UKCatAttack

    Must be a slow day at KSR headquarters. This is pretty much a non story. You could write this same story for almost every player that’s picked dUKe over the past couple of years.

    Also, did anyone else notice all of the grammatical errors in this article? Even in the headline it should have been let on instead of led on. The first sentence is also a disaster.

  9. ClutchCargo

    Totally agree with the other comments. Makes about as much sense as obsessing over which programs our commits almost chose. Otherwise, I do appreciate your contributions here, Aaron!

  10. Smyrna_Cat

    Is the Duke week on KSR?

    And why do we care … he didn’t come to UK, and I don’t think it was ever close.

  11. Smyrna_Cat

    Reading this article again, it seemed to mostly be an excuse to write about Duke again. What is up with that?

  12. TB112162

    He went to Duke who cares about him come on Aaron you know in recruiting finishing second is know different than finishing 50th time to move on

  13. Han

    Are he and Zion going to be this year’s Trae Young where you guys just keep writing articles about them, rubbing salt in the wound and reminding us that the guys on the roster weren’t Cal’s first choice?

    He’s a Dukie, and unless he or Zion are going to flip their commitment to UK, most of us are clearly already tired of hearing about them.

  14. antiquefurnitureandmidgets

    This is the Chris Farley, “but you can imagine what it’d be like if they did,” moment in Billy Madison. Not only is it pathetic, who in the heck gives two poops?!

  15. trumpetguy

    OK AT, clearly many of us in BBN read the article. Some of us even responded to it. But know this: We don’t care who plays for Duke, who has signed with Duke, or anything else about Duke! They have a good basketball program that has beat us a few times and lost to us a few times. End of story! Same thing for the Ville. Zero% interest who their coach is or any of their other staff. If the jersey says KENTUCKY on the front, that is all that matters. Everybody else…….we can read about them elsewhere if so inclined, problem is, none of us really are inclined to do so!

    1. Han

      Louisville is at least more relevant. They’re our in-state rival, albeit a weak one, and they had our old coach for a while. We play them every year. In theory, we will also be up for some of the same recruits in the region at times. What happened there has also been national news and reflects on the state.

      And sure, news about Duke beating us for a recruit is relevant…when it happens. Not over and over or throughout the season.

  16. makeitstop

    Agree completely w the above comments. Unless you found his mother meeting w Jeff Capel and Christian Dawkins at the BMW dealership the day before Hechtman announced there’s no interest here. Yes, that’s a little provincial of us, but it’s not called Nike Schools Sports Radio, and the K is for Kentucky not coach K.

    1. makeitstop

      That’s the day bf “he” announced

  17. FlatTopsAndBlockedShots

    I know we kind of search for that glimmer of hope for a player to still be pro UK but there was nothing to suggest he was thinking to himself “Kentucky”. All of his interviews and media spots have been very passive and non commital. That being said, Barrett to Duke is still the one that hurts the most, maybe even more than Bamba or Wiggins

  18. RLK

    Close only counts when your talking about horseshoes or hand grenades

  19. quiggs

    Is this sponsored content for Duke? I can’t believe you got paid by KSR for this garbage.

  20. catsarerunnin

    Yawn…

  21. BLUEVADER

    This is A Kentucky site!! Who gives a shit about a Duke player!! Its pissing me off!!

  22. chris43

    He didn’t….so ONCE AGAIN WHO CARES?!?

  23. devotedsoles528

    Why does this matter? This post is irrelevant

  24. Catuary

    If Scarlett Johansson hadn’t married that one guy then divorced him and married that other guy, then I’d possibly be hitting that right now.

    1. Catuary

      Also, this post sounds like something losing programs write about. We were THAT CLOSE to getting a good recruit and finally getting some respect!

  25. Alleykat16

    So what I dont care how close he was. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of BBN could give a rats a$$ how close he was. He’s not here so that’s that. Give us something about who is here or coming. Earn your pay get out there and find a worthy story that we would care about reading instead of making a story about,how close someone was to coming to UK. He didn’t he went,to the most hated school of the BBN.

  26. Headhurts

    He’s a ball hog, KY not for everybody.