Versatile big guard from FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) named 2018 Mr. Basketball USA by Ballislife.com. Barrett is the second selection from the internationally-known boarding school in Florida and will attend Duke University, which also successfully recruited the player Barrett beat honor for the nation's highest individual honor.
There is a common denominator when it comes to determining who is the nation's best high school basketball player. Obviously prodigious talent is paramount, but winning high-level games is often the separator among the top candidates.
This especially rings true in the last four years for the title of national player of the year and for the fourth consecutive time the nation's top individual honor for high school basketball comes from a team that captured the mythical FAB 50 national championship. That player is R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-7 left-handed wing guard from FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) and today he is honored with the title of 2017-18 Mr. Basketball USA.
Barrett is the fourth consecutive honoree off the nation's top team, following in the footsteps of 2017 honoree Micahel Porter Jr. of Nathan Hale (Seattle), Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills (Calif.) in 2016, and Ben Simmons of Montverde Academy in 2015. Prior to Simmons, the last player to earn the nation's top individual honor and lead his team to the FAB 50 title was center Greg Oden of Lawrence North (Indianapolis) in 2005-06.
The only other candidate to receive strong consideration for this year's honor was 6-foot-7 power forward Zion Williamson of Spartanburg Day School (Spartanburg, S.C.). In the final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, the power dunking sensation and one of the most viral players since the advent of social media was the only other candidate to appear on all 10 ballots. Williamson, who averaged 36.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.4 bpg and 3.6 spg and didn't play in five of Spartanburg Day School's eight losses, recorded eight second-place votes, one third-place and one fifth-place vote.
Barrett just missed becoming the first consensus national player of the year since Simmons in 2015, as he garnered nine first place votes and one third place vote. Barrett wanted to follow in the path of Simmons (now a rookie sensation with the Philadelphia 76ers) in earning national player of the year honors and leading Montverde Academy to a mythical national crown. He accomplished that goal and actually did Simmons one better by leading an Eagles team that went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the FAB 50 and the first to finish with an unbeaten record.
"It's the same concept with Michael Porter last season in that at every big venue, Barrett was the best player and hit it out of the park," said long-time panel member Clark Francis of the Hoop Scoop. "R.J. has done that three years, actually. When the bright lights come on and it's showtime, he's there. When it counts, he's the guy."
Barrett was the leading scorer for the Eagles in 2015-16 and last season was named national sophomore of the year and fourth five All-American after averaging 22 points and seven rebounds on a team that finished 26-5 and ranked No. 5 in the FAB 50. He re-classed up over the summer and didn't miss a beat. He led the Eagles to their fourth mythical FAB 50 national title (Montverde Academy won three straight with Simmons on the roster in 2013-15) by averaging 26.7 ppg in three wins at GEICO Nationals. Barrett also averaged 28.7 ppg for the entire season as the Eagles won 15 games against foes who were ranked or previously FAB 50 ranked.
His candidacy was sealed by being the best player in many high-level high school games...and not losing any of them.
Barrett, whose father Rowan Barrett is a former St. John's player and the Executive Vice President for Canada Basketball, is the third foreign-born selection of the past seven seasons. A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Barrett is the second Mr. Basketball USA from Canada, following 2013 winner Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.). Simmons, who attended Box Hill in Melbourne, Australia before enrolling at Montverde Academy in January 2013, is the third honoree among that group.
Just as the NBA has grown with foreign-born talent, so too has high school basketball and Montverde Academy is at the forefront of United States academic institutions kids from all over the world know about and even hope to attend one day. In the first 59 years of the Mr. Basketball USA honor, there was only one foreign-born national player of the year: Dominican Republic-born Felipe Lopez of now defunct Rice High in New York City for the 1993-94 season.
Barrett's domination in international competition only adds to his already impressive high school resume. In the summer of 2017, he led Canada to the FIBA 19U World Cup title, including a 38-point, 13-rebound, 5-assists performance in a semifinals win over the United States that played a big factor in him rising to the No. 1 rated prospect in the 2018 class. He also scored a game-high 20 points and had nine rebounds, six assists and five steals at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit and was named MVP.
The Montverde Academy coaching staff and Barrett's family are proud of his on-court accomplishments, but are equally proud of the growth as a young man in his three seasons in the program. He has represented the school, and his country, to the point where he's now a young ambassador to the game for many kids in Canada (and other countries who follow the high school scene) who aspire to be high school and college basketball stars in the United States.
"Over the past three years, R.J. has matured both on and off the court," said Montverde Academy assistant coach Rae Miller. "His progress academically, socially, and community outreach, far outweighs his basketball achievements. We are truly delighted to have been able to watch his tremendous growth. His work ethic and commitment will continue to lead him to the highest level of success."