Goodman: R.J. Barrett's Parents "Prepped Him To Lead"

If Barrett seems mature on the court, well, that's because he is – and he has his upbringing to thank for that

Taz and the Moose
March 07, 2019 - 9:48 am
R.J. Barrett Duke ACC

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Duke is 3-2 in its five games without Zion Williamson, including the 88-72 loss to North Carolina on Feb. 20. The other loss came at No. 20 Virginia Tech, and Duke needed a late defensive stop to beat woeful Wake Forest, 71-70, at home on Tuesday.

So, when will Williamson return for the Blue Devils?

“Nobody knows for sure, but everything I keep hearing points to the fact that he’ll be back for the ACC Tournament,” Stadium basketball analyst Jeff Goodman said on Taz & The Moose. “But again, you just don’t know. The longer this thing goes, the more you start to get concerned that somebody got in the ear of his parents, whoever is making the decision. I think ultimately it’s going to be really hard for anybody to tell that kid if he’s healthy, ‘You can’t play.’ He’s just got too much enthusiasm for the game, you can tell he loves it, he loves his teammates – all that. 

“So I think it’s going to be hard to keep him out,” Goodman continued. “I think if he’s healthy enough, he plays. I just think they’re being overly cautious, which they should be with him.”

With Williamson out, Duke has relied on R.J. Barrett, who will also be one of the top picks in the NBA Draft.

“Really, you could make a case that he’s the No. 1 pro prospect,” Goodman said. “The only thing he really doesn’t have in his game is a consistent perimeter shot, and NBA people figure that’s the area you can improve the most when you work. This kid’s got a pro game and a pro mentality to him, and he’s had it a long time.”

That is by design. When Barrett was growing up, his sister would hold a fork to his face during dinner and interview him. When he was 10 or 11, his parents would arrive at an airport and tell Barrett to direct them to the right terminal and gate.

“They kind of prepped him all these years to kind of lead, to be mature, and his basketball game shows that, too,” Goodman said. “He can get to the basket whenever he wants. He’s got great body control, he can make people better, he’s 6-8. The only thing he doesn’t do great is shoot it from the perimeter and that’s Duke’s Achilles’ heel. That’s what you’re seeing with Zion out. Zion just makes up for that flaw – and other flaws – because he impacts the game in so many ways. Offensively, you don’t have to take as many threes because he can just go get it off the glass and he’s such a mismatch nightmare for anybody out there.”

No. 4 Duke (26-4) closes the regular season at No. 3 North Carolina (25-5) on Saturday. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. ET.