Holding his own
Canadian basketball star R.J. Barrett to jump a year ahead to join Class of 2018
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.”
R.J. Barrett dunks the ball during an U19 basketball Canada team practice in Mississauga, Ont. on June 20.