Hold­ing his own

Cana­dian bas­ket­ball star R.J. Bar­rett to jump a year ahead to join Class of 2018

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY LORI EWING

Whether it was star­ring for Canada, or at the pres­ti­gious Nike Hoop Sum­mit and the Bas­ket­ball With­out Bor­ders game at the NBA’s all-star week­end, R.J. Bar­rett has proven he can more than hold his own against play­ers years older.

Now, the 17-year-old from Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., is leap­ing ahead a year to join the Class of 2018.

Bar­rett, who was the topranked player for 2019, an­nounced Mon­day that he was re­clas­si­fy­ing on his blog — “RJ’s World” — on USA To­day, mak­ing for both an in­trigu­ing 2019 NBA draft, and a busy cou­ple of months of univer­sity vis­its for the young player.

“I’ve been think­ing about it for some time now, just talk­ing to my fam­ily about it, just came to this de­ci­sion,” Bar­rett said in a phone in­ter­view from Las Ve­gas.

“The World Cup helped, I played well and the team did well, but (re­clas­si­fy­ing) has been an idea. The World Cup was def­i­nitely a con­fi­dence booster, but it was just one of the things that led to this de­ci­sion.”

Bar­rett is aca­dem­i­cally on pace to grad­u­ate next May, and re­clas­si­fy­ing makes him el­i­gi­ble for the 2019 draft where he could be­come the third Cana­dian af­ter An­thony Ben­nett (2013) and An­drew Wig­gins (‘14) to go No. 1 over­all.

Bar­rett, who is in Ve­gas to work with Pure Sweat Bas­ket­ball trainer and founder Drew Hanlen, said he’s “very ex­cited” about choos­ing a col­lege, and listed Ari­zona, Duke, Kansas, Ken­tucky, Michi­gan, Ore­gon, Texas and UCLA as the schools

show­ing the most in­ter­est.

The news comes three weeks af­ter Bar­rett led Canada to gold at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo, the coun­try’s first bas­ket­ball world ti­tle at any age level. The six-foot-six wing was out­stand­ing in wins over France and the United States, av­er­ag­ing 21.6 points and 8.3 re­bounds to earn MVP hon­ours, de­spite be­ing one of the tour­na­ment’s youngest play­ers.

He’s starred count­less times

along­side older play­ers. As a 14-year-old, he led Canada’s U16 team to a sil­ver medal at the FIBA Amer­i­cas tour­na­ment. He earned MVP hon­ours as one of the youngest play­ers in the Bas­ket­ball With­out Bor­ders game last Fe­bru­ary in New Or­leans, and was the fourth youngest player in the his­tory of the Nike Hoop Sum­mit, which pits a world high school se­lect team against the best high school­ers in the U.S.

His de­ci­sion to re­clas­sify was just the lat­est ma­jor life choice for Bar­rett, whose par­ents — dad Rowan and mom Ke­sha — have made a point of let­ting him pave his own path.

R.J. made the de­ci­sion at around 12 to fo­cus on bas­ket­ball. He’d ar­rived home up­set af­ter a game, Rowan said.

“He was in tears, he was hug­ging his mother. I said ‘What’s wrong, man? We were just in the car, ev­ery­thing was fine. What’s go­ing on?”’ Rowan said. “He said ‘I’m not happy, I didn’t make any shots.’ I said ‘What do you want to do?’ He said ‘I want to get bet­ter. . . ‘ I said ‘Well, to do that, you’ve got to train.’ And he said ‘I want to do it now.’ He said ‘I don’t want to play soc­cer any­more, I don’t want to miss any more of my bas­ket­ball tour­na­ments.’

“I was al­ways ready. . . but he had to choose it, and once he chose it, off we went.”

CP PHOTO

R.J. Bar­rett dunks the ball dur­ing an U19 bas­ket­ball Canada team prac­tice in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont. on June 20.

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