There’s something special brewing in Canada, and the rest of the international basketball community is on notice. The Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team is shaping up to be one of the more dangerous squads in the world, with a mix of NBA talent and younger potential stars who can bring the program to another level.
Among that second group of players, no one is more prominent than R.J. Barrett, the 18-year-old wunderkind who will suit up for the Duke Blue Devils next year. Barrett has all the makings of a future superstar, the kind of player who can shoulder the load of an entire country’s expectations on the hardwood.
Dime caught up with Barrett prior to the Gatorade Athlete of the Year ceremony — where he was a finalist but eventually lost out to J.T. Daniels, a quarterback from California. The future Blue Devil spoke about hoops in Canada and why he believes the national team is ready to compete for gold medals against the United States.
Dime: Why is basketball in Canada on the come up right now?
R.J. Barrett: Basketball is a very popular sport. So when you see basketball on TV all the time, people naturally want to play it more, and as Canadians, it’s finally taken more and more seriously. You see the wave pool of talent that we have, and we’re gonna be contenders.
Yeah, is it because of that talent that is coming through in the sport, is it the success of the Raptors, is it kind of something in between?
I’d say it’s definitely the success of the Raptors, and really the people that have come up in Canada that are going to the NBA and being successful. You have Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Wiggins, you’ve got Steve Nash that played. So you have this — Cory Joseph — there’s just a lot of players up and coming here that are doing well in the NBA, so I feel like the young kids, we … for me growing up, what I can see in guys like Tristan Thompson, I felt like “wow, I can do this, too, I can achieve this.”