RJ Barrett’s Stellar Performance Propels Canada to Semifinals
When it comes to basketball, the name “Alexander” is making waves, but not just one, two, or three Alexanders. The spotlight falls on the fourth Alexander, none other than RJ Barrett, whose full name is Rowan Alexander Barrett Jr. It’s a name you may already know well. However, it’s essential to note that he’s not the only Alexander in the basketball arena; his father, Rowan Alexander Barrett Sr., plays a pivotal role as the general manager of Canada Basketball. Yet, beyond the professional title, Barrett Sr. holds a more profound role – that of a proud father.
During a crucial moment in the Quarter-Finals clash against Slovenia, RJ Barrett attempted a left-handed layup. Though he reached the rim, the ball fell short, eliciting a loud thump from Rowan Sr., sitting in the front row behind the basket. This reaction was driven not by frustration but by passionate encouragement. As a father, the desire for his son’s success in every play is natural, and the emotional response was a testament to the deep father-son bond.
Rowan Sr. manages to conceal his emotions admirably during games, offering subtle nods and silent fist bumps to his colleagues, all while refraining from exuberant celebrations out of respect for those around him. This feat becomes even more challenging when you consider the arena’s 11,710 spectators and the millions more watching worldwide, all witnessing his son’s remarkable performance.
Rowan Sr. shared, “He’s still a young player. His name has been out there for some time, but sometimes you forget that he just turned 23. There’s a level of experience you need to perform in these tournaments. So to see him handling the physicality, the changes in tactics, and all of that, it’s good for a young player.”
The journey of RJ Barrett often hailed as one of the brightest basketball talents commenced in the summer of 2017. At just 17 years old, he led Canada to a historic gold medal at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Egypt. Averaging 21.6 points per game and earning the MVP award, Barrett’s name started making waves in international basketball.
Fast forward six years and RJ Barrett has transitioned from a slender teenager into a dominant force, bearing the weight of expectations each time he dons the jerseys of Duke or the New York Knicks.
Canada’s head coach, Jordi Fernandez, expressed his pride in Barrett’s growth, stating, “I’m very proud of him.” Within the national team, players assume distinct roles and responsibilities, often differing from those on their club teams. In the quarter-final showdown, RJ Barrett’s performance stood out for its aggression, speed, rebounding, and leadership.
Barrett’s contributions extend beyond a single game; he has consistently delivered throughout the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. With his second 20-point game of the tournament, Barrett reaffirmed his status as a crucial asset for Team Canada. Averaging 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 29 minutes per game, Barrett has been instrumental in Canada’s journey.
What sets this Canadian team apart is its collective strength, where any player can shine on any given night. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander often leads the charge, the team thrives on the contributions of every member. As RJ Barrett emphasized, “What you see from our team is that it could be anybody.”
Canada has made history by reaching the World Cup Semifinals for the first time. In the upcoming battle against Serbia, led by Barrett’s high-school teammate Filip Petrusev, they seek a place in the Final. With an Olympic ticket already secured for Paris 2024, this Canadian team is leaving a significant mark on the global stage, showcasing a blend of talent from the NBA and NCAA.
As the nation rallies behind this extraordinary team, RJ Barrett and his father, Rowan Sr., are adding another chapter to their basketball legacy. While Rowan Alexander’s jersey from the 2000 Olympic appearance is framed in their home, there’s now a need for space to accommodate another jersey – one that RJ Barrett has undoubtedly earned with his exceptional performances in 2023.