Canada’s young basketball star R.J. Barrett will leap a year in high school to play college basketball next year.
The 17-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., announced he was reclassifying on his blog — “RJ’s World” — on USA Today.
The news comes three weeks after Barrett led Canada to gold at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo, the country’s first basketball world title at any age level.
“I’ve been thinking about it for some time now, just talking to my family about it, just came to this decision,” Barrett said in phone interview from Las Vegas. “The World Cup helped, I played well and the team did well, but (reclassifying) has been an idea. The World Cup was definitely a confidence booster, but it was just one of the things that led to this decision.”
Reclassifying means Barrett will be eligible for the 2019 NBA draft, where he’s a projected lottery pick.
Barrett averaged 21.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in Cairo, and scored 38 points in Canada’s historic semifinal victory over the United States en route to earning MVP honours, despite being one of the tournament’s youngest players.
The six-foot-six wing is accustomed to being on the court with older players. As a 14-year-old, he led Canada’s U16 team to a silver medal at the FIBA Americas tournament. He was one of the youngest players in the Basketball Without Borders game, as part of NBA All-Star Weekend last February in New Orleans, and earned MVP honours. He was the fourth youngest player in the history of the Nike Hoop Summit, which pits a world high school select team against the best high schoolers in the U.S.
Barrett, who plays basketball for Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla., is touted as the top player in the world his age, and is the No. 1 player in the ESPN 60 for 2019.
Barrett follows in the footsteps of Canadian star Andrew Wiggins, who also reclassified to play at Kansas a year early en route to being selected with the top overall pick in the 2014 draft.