rj barrett

In NCAA Basketball, What is Valued More – Skill or Athleticism?

RJ Barrett

I find sports extremely interesting  Not necessarily because of the rules or how the game is played, but in the case of the NCAA, what constitutes a good team.  In football, a good team is one that has a number of veterans on the team typically.  This is a general rule that even applies to the NFL.  But in basketball, it seems that coaches have “good” talent when the players are young.  Perhaps it has more to do with athleticism than skill at that stage of your career?  Just look at the 2018 NBA draft.  They took 10 picks before they took someone who wasn’t a college freshman.  With that said, it makes you wonder what this year’s new crop of freshman players will look like.  And how long they will be playing college basketball.

In today’s post, I am going to be talking about just one young player, R.J. Barrett.  Barrett is a Canadian who was recruited in the class of 2018, and many deem him to be the best player.  The five-star small forward out of Toronto is the last of Duke’s four, five-star, top-25 recruits. The fearsome four of Barrett, Cam Reddish (No. 2 in the RSCI rankings), Zion Williamson (No. 4), and Tre Jones (No. 13) are joined by four-star small forward Joey Baker (No. 37) on one of the most highly anticipated teams in college basketball history. Barrett has already impressed Blue Devils fans in his debut during the team’s summer tour in his home country of Canada, but the best is yet to come for Coach K’s top-ranked recruiting class.

Barrett will definitely be a mainstay from the start this season for the Blue Devils.  A highly decorated player coming out of high school, he was the MVP of the U-19 World Cup and won a national championship with Montverde (Fla.) Academy. In April, Barrett led the World Team to a victory over the United States at the Nike Hoop Summit in front of dozens of NBA scouts. Then in Duke’s summer Canada exhibitions, the talented two-three averaged 31 points, six rebounds, and five assists while handling primary ball-handling duties with both Tre Jones and Cam Reddish out of the lineup due to injury. Barrett will fit in a flexible role at the wing, transitioning between the small forward and shooting guard spots as needed.

This group of freshman is arguably the most talked about incoming class in college basketball history.  It’s anticipated that Barrett will only play for one season, before getting drafted to play in the NBA. Whether that’s a gold thing is something to debate in a different post, but I think it shows how athleticism outranks skill when it comes to playing basketball.  I’m not saying that college players aren’t good, or even great.  But you don’t see them refine their skills until they are in the NBA for a couple of years.  Even watching a college basketball game, and then watching an NBA game, you can see the difference in terms of skills.  The raw talent is definitely there in Barrett and many others, so there’s no doubt in my mind that his skills will improve over time.

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