R.J. Barrett: Background
Here’s the story:
Rowan Alexander Barrett Jr.—“R.J.”—was born in June of 2000 in Toronto, Ontario; this June he will be part of the first class of NBA players to be born after Y2K. Barrett was named after his father, Rowan Barrett, who played college basketball at St. John’s in the 90s before becoming a longtime professional player overseas. The elder Barrett was a key member of the Canadian national basketball team, and currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Canada Basketball. Barrett’s mother, Kesha Duhaney, was a nationally ranked track-and-field athlete at St. John’s, so athletics is in his blood. Former Phoenix Suns player and Canada basketball legend Steve Nash is his godfather.
Barrett grew up overseas as his dad moved around with various teams, gaining a broad education. Fluent in French and English, Barrett attended a number of French-speaking schools. He played piano as well as a number of sports, and would hone his basketball skills against the children of his father’s teammates. When he was eight the Barrett family would move back to Ontario, with the elder Barrett taking a position with Canada Basketball. At the age of 12 R.J. told his father he wanted to focus on basketball and one-day become a Hall-of-Fame player.
From then on R.J. Barrett was the best player in Canada at every age, winning tournament MVPs and becoming a local phenom in Mississauga, which also produced NBA players such as Andrew Nicholson and Dillon Brooks. Following in his father’s footsteps Barrett has participated in every level of international basketball for Canada. He helped Canada win silver at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16, fifth-place at the U17 World Cup in 2016 and first at the U19 World Cup in 2017, leading his team in scoring despite often being the youngest player.
After his freshman year of high school he transferred to Montverde Academy in Florida, a school with a storied history of sending basketball players to the NBA. Most recently players such as Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have excelled there. In 2017-18 Barrett reclassified into the 2018 class and led Montverde to the national title as an undefeated, wire-to-wire top team. The top player in his recruiting class by every major outlet, Barrett made the rounds of prospect tournaments and dominated them all. He won MVP at the Jordan Brand Classic, Basketball without Borders and the Nike Hoop Summit. Barrett was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Mr. Basketball USA and the Naismith Prep Player of the Year in 2018. Barrett enrolled at Duke University along with one of the most loaded freshman classes in history.
Background bullet points:
Full Name: Rowan Alexander Barrett Jr = “R.J. Barrett”
Born: Toronto, Ontario
JUST LIKE: Drake, Jim Carrey, Justin Bieber, Andrew Wiggins
High School: Montverde Academy (FL)
JUST LIKE: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Francisco Lindor
Did you know?
His godfather is none other than Hall of Fame guard Steve Nash
Player? LeBron James
Movie? Space Jam
Artist? J. Cole
Dropped 38 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists on USA in the U19 World Cup in 2017 en route to a gold medal
No, Barrett is not from Mississippi. From the age of eight he lived in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto. The largest city you’ve never heard of, players such as Dillon Brooks and Andrew Nicholson have also come out of Mississuaga. Colonel Sanders, he of “KFC” fame, lived there as well. The Raptors 905 play there in one of the city’s 13 hockey arenas, and Barrett dominated the youth sports scene before enrolling in Montverde Academy in Florida for high school.
Barrett is at the forefront of a Canadian explosion of NBA prospects. Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort and Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker could all be first-round picks. This youth movement is evidence of a growing love of basketball in Canada, a generation excited by watching Steve Nash growing up. The United States’ dominance in international basketball could be challenged from its own backyard.