FORT MYERS, Fla. — In just his second season, sophomore guard R.J. Barrett is already the veteran for Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.).
Barrett and Sean Mobley are the only players who remain who saw minutes when the Eagles lost in the semifinals of the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals at the end of last season.
On Monday, Barrett and the No. 4 Eagles defeated Jonesboro (Ga.), 76-45 in a quarterfinal at the City of Palms Classic, setting up a semifinal matchup with No. 5 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) on Tuesday.
Barrett led the way with 21 points. It’s a much different Montverde team, with several talented newcomers who are more comfortable shooting from the outside or running the break than pounding it inside.
“Our team was more athletic last year,” Barrett said. “Now we have more guards that
we can play defense and switch a lot.”
Many of the newcomers are not that new to Barrett, considered the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019. Canadian Marcus Carr was injured much of last season at Montverde and, like fellow Canadians and newcomers Grant Shephard and Andrew Nembhard, grew up playing alongside Barrett, a natie of Mississauga, Ontario.
“It’s been a lot easier to have Andrew and Grant and Marcus,” Barrett said. “It’s pretty comfortable. We’ve been playing together for so long that we just kind of know each other on the court.”
The newcomers have changed Montverde’s style to something that is a bit more European. Bigs such as Sandro Mamukelashvili, a 6-9 forward from the Republic of Georgia, and Mobley, comfortable taking their shots from outside. That in turn opens up the floor for Barrett and Nembhard, who was second in scoring with 10 points.
“It’s a lot easier to drive with Sandro on the wing because he can shoot,” Barrett said. “They can’t afford to help as much on defense because he’s there and can knock it down.”
Barrett said he said his team’s task is simple Tuesday against IMG, which has former Montverde player Silvio De Sousa.
“That’s my boy,” Barrett said. “It’s pretty good because we get to play against each other now. I’m never really concerned. We just have to play defense and we have to box their bigs out. We can rebound, too.”