Top prospect R.J. Barrett already besting NBA opponents

The dust has barely settled on the 2018 NBA Draft, and although this year’s draft class is loaded with talent, the current consensus No. 1 pick in 2019 is stealing the spotlight.

R.J. Barrett, who has committed to Duke University this fall, is already playing for Canada on the international stage, and working out with NBA talent this summer. 

Drew Hanlen, the CEO of Pure Sweat Basketball, is a basketball skills coach that has trained numerous NBA superstars, including Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Gordon Hayward. But he sees tremendous upside in the 18-year-old Barrett.

“He was playing in the pick-up games with our NBA guys, not only holding his own but kind of shining at times, beat some of the NBA guys in one-on one,” Hanlen said during an appearance on the HoopsHype podcast. “He’s ready to go.”

And although Barrett’s skills are already developing at a monumental rate, his work ethic is what Hanlen believes will set him apart from other prospects next spring.

“R.J. is one of the … to me, Jayson Tatum was one of the most professional 19-year-old kids I’ve ever had as far as walking in the gym, just handles himself like a pro, watches film like a pro and works like a pro. I put R.J. right behind Jayson in that category.”

Tatum agrees with Hanlen’s analysis of Barrett, even admitting the youngster has the inside track on his game at the same age.

“He’s more athletic than I was at that age, he’s probably stronger than me,” Tatum told theScore this spring. “My advantage was that I’m a little taller, and my ability to score the ball was my strong suit … he’s a great player and a great athlete. He’s a lot taller than I thought he was.”

Barrett’s game has benefited greatly from the insight of his father, Rowan, who played professionally. Also, legendary point guard Steve Nash is both his godfather and mentor.

“He’s just learned from great people as far as how to handle himself like a pro,” Hanlen added. “So, I think that he just comes into it and brings a certain level of toughness, he competes harder than anyone I’ve had at that age and he’s really good.”

Barrett, who stands six-foot-seven and weighs just over 200 pounds, played for Canada in its FIBA 2019 World Cup qualifiers alongside NBAers Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk and Dillon Brooks, and looked remarkably comfortable against the stiffer competition. He’s also been a mainstay on his country’s under-19 and under-17 FIBA rosters, even earning tournament MVP honors in 2017.

Under the tutelage of legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke this year, Barrett could develop into one of the top prospects the NBA has seen in years. He’ll join a loaded recruiting class that should contend for a national title this season.

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