In some cases, a person’s eventual calling in life seems pre-destined. R.J. Barrett’s life mirrored that sentiment from the very beginning.
Canada’s next big thing was born in Mississauga, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, to an elite duo of athletes. His father, Rowan Barrett Sr., whom he’s named after, starred for the St. John’s basketball team while his mother, Kesha, sprinted for the Red Storm. The two met in college.
Rowan Jr. was born in Canada, then lived overseas while his father played professional basketball in France. He played basketball and soccer while abroad and also picked up French as a supplemental language. Once the family returned to North America, they spent plenty of time in New York. His father would take him to the city where he attended to college to work with him on his game. Young R.J. was thrown to the wolves, mainly playing in pick-up games against much older competition.
“The city game isn’t a lot of jump shots—it’s a lot of going to the rim, figuring out how to get to the rim,” Rowan Sr. told SLAM. “No one calls foul. All the trash talk, the chatter. Can you play while someone is talking to you? Don’t look over to the side. Daddy can’t help you. So, we’d take him there in the summer and it was great for his development in terms of toughness.”
“He learned the European way, and then he played in Brooklyn.”
The New York basketball culture is nothing new to R.J. – fitting, considering he’s projected to be picked by the Knicks third-overall in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
His father captained the Canadian National team during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Alongside Steve Nash, the duo led Canada to a seventh-place finish. Rowan Sr. and Nash now serve as the Assistant General Manager/Executive VP and General Manager of the Senior Men’s team respectively for the Canadian National basketball program. Through their time on the national team to their efforts toward establishing a rich basketball culture in the country, Nash and Barrett built up not only a professional partnership, but a personal bond.
So much so that Rowan Sr. decided to make Nash his son’s godfather.
“Steve is a better person than he was a basketball player,” Rowan said via ABC11.
His basketball lineage allowed Barrett to hone his craft from an early age. His connection to organized basketball propelled his skill level to new heights and eventually, he helped lead Canada to a silver medal in the Under-16 FIBA world championships at 15-years old. The hype at that point, though, was nothing compared to what was coming.
Click to Page 2 to read about Barrett’s high school and college experience.