RJ Barrett will step onto the Madison Square Garden hardwood as the latest in a long line of leading men who aspire to lead the New York Knicks to the NBA championship that's eluded them for more than 30 years.
With 2019's No. 3 overall pick ready to earn admiration in the Big Apple, here are 10 things to know about the 6-foot-7 swingman.
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An athletic pedigree: Barrett was raised as an only child in Mississauga, Canada, just outside Toronto, by Kesha and Rowan Barrett. His parents both attended St. John’s, where his mother ran track and his father played basketball. His father played overseas from 1997-2008 and was a member of Team Canada at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He knows an MVP: The two-time NBA MVP played alongside Barrett’s father on the Canadian National Team and remains close with the family."If he ever needs anything or he's going through a tough time or something that's bothering him, he never hesitates to reach out," Nash said prior to the Draft.
Team Canada success: In 2017, Barrett was instrumental in helping Canada’s U-19 team win the FIBA World Cup while taking home tournament MVP honors. Barrett had a breakout performance in a win over the U.S. team in the semifinals, scoring 38 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 99-87 win.
Setting out to succeed: Barrett left his family in Canada to play for Montverde Acadamy in Orlando, Fla., as a freshman. Barrett recalls the first year of that transition as a struggle: “I was not used to being away from my parents for a long period of time. As time goes on I won't see them for a long time and we're just fine with it now." Barrett was coached at Montverde by Kevin Boyle, whose past stars include Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
True prep phenom: While at Montverde, Barrett established himself quickly as one of the best high school players in the country. He was able to complete his academics in three years and “reclassify” as a junior to virtually graduate in three years. Leaving Montverde, Barrett was ranked as the No. 1 prospect by ESPN and numerous outlets after taking home every major award as the nation’s top player, the first to do so since LeBron James in 2003.
One-and-done at Duke: Barrett made an immediate impact at Duke, scoring 33 points in his debut (most by a Duke player in a freshman debut) and averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Barrett was a consensus All-American First Team and earned USA Today’s Player of the Year award.
My friend, Zion: Thanks to their season together at Duke, in which they became the first freshmen in NCAA history to average 20-plus points, the pair’s friendship blossomed. They had been friends in high school and shared a dorm room at Duke, seamlessly brushing off media hype to shine for the Blue Devils. The two became so close, coach Mike Krzyzewski said they had “become brothers.”
Multi-skilled ... and multi-lingual: Thanks to his father’s time spent in France and attending a French-speaking school, Barrett is fluent in the language. The young prospect says he’s “rusty” but answered a question in French at his introductory news conference with the Knicks, impressing himself even. “That was nice, wasn’t it?” Barrett laughed after responding beautifully.
Big Apple arrival: Knicks fans were disappointed when their team slipped to No. 3 on Lottery night, but Barrett has the talent and upside to help turn around one of the league’s premiere franchises. After missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season and finishing with the league’s worst record, many in New York hoped for the top pick (and the chance to grab Williamson), but Barrett has the potential to make them forget their Draft night disappointment.
The new Puma in town: Barrett signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with shoe and apparel maker Puma. The company had long sought Barrett; that he’d be playing in New York, where Clyde Frazier helped put the brand on the map in the ’70s, only made the partnership that more meaningful.
RJ Barrett in his new Pumas in front of a billboard near MSG: pic.twitter.com/jvh3La9R3B— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) August 28, 2019