This video of RJ Barrett, playing for Canada, and Cam Reddish, playing for the U.S., shows us two things: first, that there’s a reason why Barrett is considered the best player in the class. It’s not just his talent, which is pretty clear. It’s his heart and desire.
When pressed, coaches hate to say who their favorite players are but we suspect if you asked Mike Krzyzewski, his short list would include Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Kyle Singler, Tyus Jones, Dan Meaghar, David Henderson, Johnny Dawkins, Tommy Amaker and Billy King.
Just a guess mind you.
Whoever is on his actual list, by this time next year, Barrett is likely to be there too.
Coach K has a word he likes to use for guys like Barrett. It’s a 12-letter word that can’t be said on television and it’s one that Krzyzewski applies to extraordinarily tough and competitive players (like those above).
From day one, because of the intensity he brings to the court, Barrett is going to be treated as a leader.
Reddish probably has more raw talent but at this point, he can’t match Barrett’s ferocity. Playing with him at Duke, even for just a year, should help Reddish immensely. Duke has had great pairs of similar players over the years - Art Heyman and Jeff Mullins, Kenny Dennard and Gene Banks and Mason and Miles Plumlee for instance - and they’ve often pushed each other to greater heights. That could be the case here too.
It’s also fair to say that there’s a perception problem that works against Reddish. He’s so gifted that sometimes it looks like he’s not working as hard as he really is. The same thing happened to Luol Deng at Duke. We watched him once when he seemed to be loping downcourt kind of casually.
That’s what we thought until we watched it again and realized that not only was he taking really long strides, but he started last and finished nearly first downcourt.
It only looked slow.
Reddish will have a similar perception problem but Barrett will force his game to change in a really big hurry.
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