Montverde Academy is probably the favorite to win the 2018 Geico High School Nationals Tournament – with less than two months before the action heats in New York City. But one question coming into the tournament is does Montverde star RJ Barrett need a title in Madison Square Garden to validate his high school career?

Barrett has already mapped out the next step of his career as he is committed to Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. But there is the nagging history of two failed attempts to win the Dick’s title the last two years as Montverde searches for their fourth crown following the three-peat from 2013-15.

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Barrett’s first season in Montverde, Florida saw Montverde get bounced in the semi-finals against La Lumiere on a team that included fellow Canadian Simi Shittu, the Angola duo of Silvio De Sousa and Bruno Fernandez and Micah Potter. 

Then last year, Barrett took the Eagles one step further, but once again Montverde could not beat the La Lumiere team from Indiana, losing in the title game. Barrett did just about all he could with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the 70-52 loss. But he did take 24 shots with Marcus Carr taking 13 and no other player attempting more than nine shots.

On a mission for No. 4

That leaves Barrett and Montverde on a mission for No. 4 and they picked up a major victory in the final of the 15th annual Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament, taking down Findlay Prep of Nevada 69-67 in a thriller.

Michael Devoe hit a three-pointer with one second to play in a back and forth game that featured eight ties and 32 lead changes, six ties and 17 lead changes coming in the fourth quarter alone. Devoe, who is committed to Georgia Tech, paced all scorers with 26 points while Barrett had 22 points. The win came over Findlay and star center Bol Bol, the son of former NBA star Manute Bol who is committed to Oregon; and power forward Reggie Chaney, who will head to Arkansas.

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These two teams could very well meet up again at Madison Square Garden at the 2018 Geico Nationals as Findlay is expected to make the eight-team field as well. And Bol and the Pilots will be gunning for Barrett, Devoe and co.

Major test on final weekend

Roselle Catholic of New Jersey also gave the Eagles all they could handle in the final weekend of the regular season at the Metro Classic in New Jersey.

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Montverde trailed by six points with under 30 seconds left and Barrett came to the rescue with the final seven points for the victory to secure a perfect 32-0 regular season and the top spot in the national rankings.

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But Barrett knows he is playing for his own history. He came into the season with a gold medal around his neck after leading Canada to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 title – the country’s first-ever international title. And he is bound for Duke and all the pressures that comes with playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium for Coach K.

Top contender for No. 1 pick in 2019 NBA Draft

Barrett is also the leading contender right now to be the number one pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

According to sportsbettingdime.com, from 1947 to 2012, not a single Canadian was ever selected first overall in the NBA draft. Following in the footsteps of Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014, Barrett has a chance to make it three Canadian No. 1 overalls in seven years. Already atop most early mocks, Barrett is currently the 4/5 favorite to go No. 1. Fellow Canadian Simi Shittu, who is headed to Vanderbilt later this year for his freshman season, is 4/3 to join Barrett as a lottery selection.

Trip later in February to Bahamas for Barrett?

Now that Montverde have the rest of February off as well as nearly all of March before the start of the Geico Nationals from March 29-31, there is a question to be pondered regarding Barrett.

Will he be included in Canada’s roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers in February? Canada Basketball have not yet released their roster for the games against Virgin Islands on February 22 and Bahamas on February 25. But they have announced that Germany-based Gordie Herbert will be the head coach for the February window – during which both Canada games will be played in the Bahaman capital Nassau.

Barrett worked out with the Canadian senior national team and played friendly games with them ahead of the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2016. It would not be a stretch that Canada Basketball bring Barrett at least into camp to get another bit of exposure to senior level national basketball.

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Canada will be under pressure to win their two games in the Bahamas though after going 1-1 in the first window in November, beating Bahamas at home and then losing at Dominican Republic. So it’s unclear if they are ready to give Barrett a chance in the Bahamas.

But there is a lot of pressure mounting on Barrett with the Geico Nationals now to grab all the focus over the coming six weeks.

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