LEXINGTON, Ky. — There have been some mixed signals about just how good R.J. Barrett’s official visit to Kentucky went over the weekend. Dwayne Washington, AAU coach of the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, helped clear that up.
“It was a really good visit,” Washington told SEC Country on Wednesday. “They did everything they could do. They showed who they are — not focusing on what other [schools] can or can’t do — and that’s a great way to start if you’re Kentucky. You couldn’t have done a better job than they did. It’s tough for a lot of people that Kentucky was R.J.’s first [official visit]. A lot of questions they had before were answered, and that’s a great position to be in.”
Washington, who also coached current UK freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, offered a much more glowing review of the trip to Lexington than did Barrett himself. He told Adam Zagoria the visit was “alright,” sending some Cats fans into a panic.
But Washington said Barrett and his family “really like the family atmosphere” at Kentucky. “They liked how generous the coaching staff was — the head coach — in terms of giving of his time and doing whatever he can to make sure people are successful. Extra time on the court, extra academic resources. It’s about basketball, but also more than basketball.
“They liked how the staff is diverse in appearance but they each brought something to the table. The competition piece, how [coach John Calipari] and the staff get guys better. Man, there were so many good things about it. So many good things about the visit. For example, the approach they take with individual athletes, where they are now and how they get from A to B.”
Washington said he already knew all of this from taking Gilgeous-Alexander on his visit to UK, but he was happy to hear the Barrett family got a chance to see all of that for themselves. And to hear from their fellow Canadian, Gilgeous-Alexander, about his impressions of the program after a summer of workouts and practices.
Barrett “talks to Shai every day,” Washington said. “Shai is like his big brother. They train in the summer, they hang out, Shai works with him and shows him a lot of stuff. Shai is very serious and focused, so if he picks a school, you really gotta take it seriously.”
Barrett, a 6-foot-7 wing who plays high school ball at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, has four more official visits scheduled: Duke on Sept. 15, Arizona on Sept. 21, Oregon on Sept. 23 and Michigan on Sept. 29. It sounds like the Cats set a high bar for those programs.
“It was good for the family to see and echo everything about why Shai went there: because they can make you better,” Washington said. “If you’re somebody who is No. 1 in the class, you definitely have to say, ‘What did they do with the other No. 1 guys?’ Who is getting those players to be better than they are, noticeably, in a short period of time?”
The Wildcats have whole walls covered in the NBA draft picks they’ve produced in eight seasons under Calipari. He’s had three No. 1 overall picks — John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns — seven top-5 selections and a dozen top-10 picks in that span.
Kentucky probably shared that information with Barrett during the visit, which, according to Washington, “couldn’t have gone any better.”