Duke Basketball: Jayson Tatum Surprises R.J. Barrett with National Honor


Duke Commit R.J.Barrett has just been named the 2018 Gatorade National High School Basketball Player of the Year.

At what was supposed to be a family dinner, former Duke star and Gatorade Player of the Year, Jayson Tatum, hopped out of a car pretending to be the valet and surprised R.J.Barrett with the very prestigious award.

Barrett is only the third Duke commit to win the Gatorade National High School Basketball Player of the Year Award. He follows in the footsteps of Tatum and Jabari Parker.

In terms of the prestige and honor of the award, Barrett told Ball Durham, “It’s a great award for anybody to win, but being only the third Duke guy is pretty special”

Barrett will be joining Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones at Duke next fall, but they will all be on the same team at the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn on April 8th. They will be coached by Barrett’s high school coach, Kevin Boyle. As for the four being on the court at the same time, Barrett said, “Coach Boyle is going to do what he wants to do, he is a great coach.”

Barrett said that he is very excited to get to Duke and play in front of the Cameron Crazies, but he must maintain his focus on his current season as the USA Today has Montverde ranked #1 in the nation. They are 32-0 and headed to the GEICO High School Basketball Nationals starting on March 29.

Barrett has averaged 28.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game and is the #1 player in the ESPN 100 rankings.

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Not only does Barrett put in work on the court, he also is a stud in the classroom with a 3.14 GPA and serves his community in Florida by volunteering at the Montverde Lower School Basketball Buddies program and the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, on behalf of the South Lake Church of Christ.

As for having Jayson Tatum present him with the award, R.J. said, “That was fun.”

“I was really surprised, I didn’t know that was going to happen. With him going to Duke and now being in the NBA, living out his dream, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” Barrett explained.

On presenting the award, Tatum said, “Time really does go by fast, it feels like yesterday when I won this award.”

Penny Hardaway was the one to surprise Tatum with the award, but Tatum says, “I was excited I could do the same, but I’m not Penny Hardaway.”

Tatum, most likely along with Barrett, and many others will spend one year at Duke before going to the NBA, but Tatum says the Duke coaching staff prepared him very well for the NBA.

“Them being tough on me and expecting a lot out of me, they really instilled a lot of confidence in me, putting me out there in big moments. They helped me grow and grow up faster and get me ready for the NBA,” Tatum told Ball Durham.

As the Duke Brotherhood continues to grow each year, Tatum and Barrett now have a connection despite never playing with each other.

“The Brotherhood means everything to me,” Tatum said, “once you make the choice to come to Duke and play for Coach K, you’re in it with the guys that played before you and your teammates. It’s just so special. We’re all just so close.”

As for any specific Coach K stories that Tatum and fellow Duke guard and Tatum’s current Boston Celtics teammate Kyrie Irving have shared, Tatum says, “It’s hard to pick just one. We often talk about how grateful we were to play for Coach and how we respect we have for him.”

Just in case you were wondering, Tatum picked Duke to win the National Title this year. “We’re off to a great start and hopefully we can keep it up Saturday,” Tatum said.

Duke takes on Rhode Island Saturday in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, while Tatum, Irving, and the Celtics take on the Orlando Magic on Friday night, and for Barrett, he isn’t in action until Nationals on March 29.