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  • With 2018's No. 1 recruit in the fold, Duke is on its way to a third consecutive top-ranked freshman class.
By Chris Johnson
November 10, 2017

The top recruit in the country is headed to Duke. R.J. Barrett announced during a broadcast Friday on Canadian sports channel TSN that he chose the Blue Devils over finalists Kentucky and Oregon.

Barrett may not be as famous as the No. 2 recruit in his class, Spartanburg Day (S.C.) School small forward/viral sensation Zion Williamson, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the best prospects on the planet. Technically, however, he’s been a member of this class for only a couple of months, having announced his decision to jump to 2018 from 2019 in late July.

Barrett is a 6' 6", 180-pound small forward renowned for his playmaking ability, scoring arsenal and defensive tools. He’s the son of former St. John’s and Canadian national team forward Rowan Barrett and attends Montverde Academy, the same Florida private school that produced 6'10" Australian point guard Ben Simmons, whom the Philadelphia 76ers selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft.

Barrett led the most competitive youth circuit, Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, in scoring this year at 28.0 points per game and was named Most Valuable Player at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Cairo after averaging 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists. In a semifinal bout against a United States team loaded with elite prospects and coached by Kentucky’s John Calipari, Barrett dropped 38 points in a 99–87 win.

Yet instead of opting to play for Calipari in college, Barrett chose to join the program led by the three-time Olympic gold medal-winning head coach of USA’s senior team, Mike Krzyzewski. Before Friday night, the Blue Devils had already signed two prized class of 2018 prospects: point guard Tre Jones, the younger brother of Duke national title-winning PG Tyus Jones, and small forward Cameron Reddish. They both rank in the top seven in the class of 2018 Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), a composite incorporating data from several services.

Jones, Reddish and Barrett project to slot into the Blue Devils’ starting lineup right away in 2018-19. Although Duke should ask several freshmen to play heavy minutes this season, it’s extremely unlikely that all of them will be back for their sophomore campaigns. Point guard Trevon Duval, power forward Marvin Bagley III and center Wendell Carter Jr., all top-seven RSCI prospects in the class of 2017, are projected to be selected in the first round of next summer’s draft, and senior Grayson Allen is entering his final year of eligibility.

Barrett and Reddish both play on the wing, but it wouldn’t be difficult for Krzyzewski to roll them out together. They can be moved up and down the lineup based on matchups and who else is on the floor at the same time. Duke is expected to lose Bagley, the most highly regarded recruit in the class of 2017 and SI’s projected freshman runner-up in points per game (16.5), to the pros this offseason, but it would have been hard for the Blue Devils to find a better way to replace his scoring than by adding Barrett. Although he probably won’t be around for long: Barrett could well be the top pick in the 2019 draft after going one-and-done in Durham.

Duke has pulled in the most highly touted recruiting class in the country the past two years, according to 247Sports, and the addition of Barrett puts them on track for a threepeat. With Barrett and Reddish, they’ve pulled in the No. 1 and No. 3 prospects in the nation, respectively, and they’re pursuing No. 2, Williamson.

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