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All eyes on me: Duke’s R.J. Barrett declares for the NBA Draft

All Eyes On Me Dukes R J Barrett Declares For The Nba Draft
All Eyes On Me Dukes R J Barrett Declares For The Nba Draft

R.J. Barrett looked into the camera with a placid, droopy-eyed stare and told Duke fans what they already knew.

The most-hyped Canadian recruit since Andrew Wiggins — and perhaps the most-hyped Canadian college player of all time — is entering the 2019 NBA Draft.

“I’ll always be a part of the (Duke) brotherhood, and I hold that very near and dear to heart,” he said in a video posted to Twitter this morning.

“Looking forward to coming back and supporting the Blue Devils any way I can. Just wanted to thank you for everything.”

This was, of course, a foregone conclusion.

Barrett put up gaudy stats as a Duke freshman and is a projected top-three pick in the Draft. No one expected him to pass that up.

He will go down as an ACC champion, as an effective scorer, and as part of the ballast that kept Duke afloat when teammate Zion Williamson was out with injuries.

As he stared into that camera and thanked the Duke community, highlights from his freshman campaign flashed across the screen.

So many dunks. So many celebrations. So much fist-pumping and cheerleading.

Canadian Basketball Player Rj Barrett Against Michigan State Declares For 2019 NBA Draft
R.J. Barrett against Michigan State Final Four – Photo: Duke Athletics

Barrett will be remembered for this, but also for missing a key free throw down the stretch in an Elite 8 loss to Michigan State.

He will be remembered for trying to miss his second free throw in that stretch and watching it clank high off the rim and through the twine.

Duke lost by a single point.

It was a gut-wrenching finale for a superteam expected to contend for an NCAA championship.

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“Sure, it sucks,” Barrett told TSN’s Matthew Scianitti in a media scrum after the loss.

“I had a chance to tie the game and I didn’t.”

He acknowledged the loss was no single person’s fault. All year, they had won as a team and they lost as a team.

Rj Barrett Drills Three Pointer Duke March Madness
R.J. Barrett drills three-pointer during March Madness – Photo – Duke Athletics

“I came here, I gave everything I could for the team,” Barrett said. “We were able to have so much success.”

Remember that Barrett is just 18 years old. His birthday is four days before the Draft. He is barely a man, but his maturity speaks volumes.

His boring, measured, hockey-guy responses in media interviews carry an implied message: He’s here to play basketball, to win, to show out.

Nothing else matters.

And, of course, this is only the beginning.

Rj Barrett Reverse Slam Duke Blue Devils Nba Draft
R.J. Barrett throws down reverse slam – Photo – Duke Athletics

Barrett enters the draft with what seems like a level head, and with the knowledge some Canadian NBA players have struggled to live up to their potential.

He has seen Wiggins become a solid pro, but not an Alpha dog. He is aware of how the basketball world sees Anthony Bennett, who went from No. 1 pick to the G League in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

Barrett’s success, or lack of it, will go a long way to determining how Canadian players are perceived in the next half-decade.

It isn’t fair, not by a long shot. But early indications are — pardon the pun — that Barrett can bear it.

“It was amazing to play for Coach K, play for the brotherhood,” he said in that video posted to Twitter.

“It was a dream of mine to play at Duke, ever since I was a young kid. It’s also a dream of mine to play in the NBA and have great success there.”

He’ll get his chance, and we — along with the rest of the basketball world — will be watching.

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