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.”
“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?