By David Cordova
The game of basketball was created in the U.S., but it has grown in many other countries as well, particularly, north of the border in Canada. Over the last decade, Canadian basketball has made waves throughout the world and has made people see that they are better than just being neighbors to the United States.
One of the first NBA players from Canada to make an impact was future Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash. These days, there are plenty of elite talent from there, such as: Tyler Ennis (Milwaukee Bucks), Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves), Anthony Bennett (Brooklyn Nets), NBA champions Cory Joseph (Toronto Raptors) and Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers). Also, two of Canada’s phenoms over the last year, Thon Maker and Jamal Murray, were both first-round draft picks in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Now on the high school ranks, there is one name that is making his name shine above all the rest: R.J. Barrett. The 6-foot-7 forward out of Montverde Academy in Florida, is regarded as the No. 1 player in the class of 2019 by ESPN. Barrett makes great moves to the basket and has plenty of athleticism and has a great jumpshot to match. He is also regarded to to be the next best thing out of Canada.
When asked about his motivation to succeed, he replied, “I just look at my dad and what he did and I try to model my game and work ethic the same.” Barrett is the son of Rowan Barrett, who played his collegiate years at St. John’s University from 1992-96 and played professional basketball in Spain, Argentina, Italy, Israel, Cyprus, Venezuela and France for 10 years (1997-2007). These days, the elder Barrett is the Executive Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Canada Basketball.
“My dad taught me that I had to work hard for everything that I want in life, so everytime I go out on the court, I give it my all.” Barrett says.
When asked what the difference in the style of basketball between the United States and Canada, he said, “It’s really different, but we do our best when we match up with the Americans.”
As a freshman at Montverde, he was one of the team’s standouts as the loaded squad went 26-2 and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the country by MaxPreps, with Barrett being named to the MaxPreps All-Freshman First Team. “I came to Montverde because there were friends of mine that I grew up with, so it was a great fit and easy. I think I did pretty well for a freshman, but I still have a ways to go.”
Playing for the Canada Basketball’s U17 team this summer in the FIBA World Championships in Zargoza, Spain , Barrett dominated on the international stage, with 18.4 points and 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. In April, he won MVP honors in the Jordan Brand Classic International game, putting on a solid performance of 22 points and 8 rebounds.
And his string of performances didn’t stop there. During the spring and summer, when he wasn’t playing international basketball, he was playing on the Nike E16 circuit with UPlay Canada, featuring two other dominant guards in Andrew Nembhard, who will also be playing for Montverde next season and Khaleem Bennett, who plays for Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. Those three and their supporting cast of players steamrolled through the entire E16 circuit all the way to the Nike Peach Jam championship game, in which they lost to All-Ohio Red.
All in all, it was a great experience for Barrett. “Playing in the E16 circuit was pretty cool, I got to play against a lot of great players around the country. Playing in the Peach Jam was also a great experience, because not everybody in the world gets to come here and show what they can do, so it’s a great thing to come there and show what they can do.”
Being the top-ranked player also gives Barrett the chance to play in front of college coaches. Over the last few months, he has received offers from schools such as Baylor, USC, UCLA, Utah and Oklahoma. As the next couple of years go by, there is no doubt, that there will be more colleges garnering his attention.
This coming year, as a sophomore, at Montverde, Barrett will be bound to excel on the court and will continue to prove that he belongs amongst the best. But for now, there is work to be done in the gym.
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