SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – R.J. Barrett had to make a play.
There were just 23 seconds left in regulation, and Barrett’s Montverde Academy led Simeon Academy, 61-60, at the 2018 HoopHall Classic.
Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker took the ball down the court, just seconds after Barrett sunk a free throw to give the Eagles the one-point lead. Barrett slowly backpedalled, his eyes locked on Horton-Tucker. His expression, much like the entirety of the game, didn’t quiver one bit from a cold, hard stare.
Barrett, the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2018, the crowned jewel of Duke’s historic incoming class and the most heralded Canadian prospect since Andrew Wiggins, knew his job. He had to make a play. And he did.
The 6’6 guard used every inch of his lengthy frame to practically create a wall in front of Iowa State-bound Horton-Tucker. He stayed low to the ground, lower than Horton-Tucker, and made a swift lunge at the ball to knock it away. He corralled the ball before being fouled, and then went on to split a pair of free throws to lock up a 62-60 Eagles win.
“That’s my favorite moment of the game,” Barrett told DIME. “The end. You have to win the game for the team.”
Was Barrett’s performance impressive? Yes. Surprising? No. If anything, it was expected. Plays like that will continue to be expected, too. For the rest of his tenure with the Golden Eagles, his future career with the Blue Devils and beyond, Barrett will have lofty expectations resting on his broad shoulders.