Watch: Duke’s RJ Barrett describes game-winning basket against UCF
The mystery player on South Carolina’s 2019-20 roster has the endorsement of Duke’s latest hero.
R.J. Barrett had the winning bucket Sunday as the Blue Devils survived UCF at Colonial Life Arena and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Barrett’s presence in Columbia brought to the surface a storyline surrounding Frank Martin’s next team.
What’s to be expected of Jermaine Couisnard?
Barrett and Couisnard weren’t teammates at Montverde Academy in central Florida, but they shared the same hallways and often practiced on the same floor. Barrett, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, was the headliner for Montverde’s undefeated national title team while Couisnard, a South Carolina signee, was starring for the school’s post-graduate squad.
When the sides scrimmaged against one another, it wasn’t unusual for the 6-foot-7 Barrett to be matched up with the 6-4 Couisnard.
“He can shoot,” Barrett said of Couisnard on Thursday. “Anywhere over half-court is his range. I remember guarding him, and he would pull in my face at half-court.
“I think he’ll be good (at South Carolina).”
Couisnard has yet to suit up for USC. He sat this winter due to an eligibility issue. Martin has clarified several times that Couisnard will be full-go next season as a redshirt freshman.
The combo guard will join a young core of Gamecocks that includes A.J. Lawson, Keyshawn Bryant and Justin Minaya.
“He’s really competitive,” said Barrett, who averages over 22 points a game for Duke. “He talks trash, he gets into it. I love that about him. He wants to win so bad. But off the court, all that goes away. He’s the coolest guy.
“I was glad I was able to compete with him.”
Kevin Boyle Jr., Montverde’s post-grad coach, confirmed to The State last year the epic practice battles between Barrett and Couisnard.
“R.J.’s a very tough player to guard with his size and ability to seamlessly transition from attacking the rim to quickly turning his back and making tough post shots,” Boyle Jr. said. “For the most part, I’d say it was definitely close (between Couisnard and Barrett). And that’s where we first started to see his ability to make tougher shots. You say, ‘Hey, now we’re playing against a team that’s No. 1 in the country and you’re not going to have gap to kick to easy stand-still shots. You’re gonna have to make shots over long arms.’”
Couisnard was a three-star prospect who chose USC after pursuit from the likes of Louisville, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio State and West Virginia, among others.
Before heading to Montverde, he averaged 29.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists during his senior season at East Chicago Central High School in Indiana.