Barrett happy to be back with his guys after Canada senior team flirt
ZARAGOZA (2016 FIBA U17 World Championship) - Imagine playing with the senior national team just shy of your 16th birthday while your buddies are preparing for a possible title run at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Welcome to the world of RJ Barrett.
The talented shooting guard didn't know until the last minute whether or not he would be able to join the Canadian team at the U17 Worlds in Zaragoza or remain with the senior side looking at playing the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila.
"I didn't know if I was going to play with this (U17) team or not," admitted Barrett, who celebrated his 16th birthday while with the senior side. "I was obviously excited about the senior team, and if that happens you can’t turn it down. It’s a great opportunity. But I also wanted to be with my guys."
Barrett's guys were the Canadian group that gave United States a real fight in the final of the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship before losing 77-60 and grabbing the country’s first continental second place at U16s.
When asked about his teammates welcoming him at their U17 Worlds base in Zaragoza, Barrett said: "It was great. When I walked in, everybody was jumping on me. It was really fun to see them again. It was great to reunite that team."
Not only a year older, more mature and hungrier, the Canadians also added a couple of new dangerous players and are actually a deeper team.
"This team is even deeper than last year. I feel we're good enough and have enough talent that we can reach the Final," said Barrett, who has collected a team-high 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 blocks in the first two games - both Canada wins.
"It [reaching the Final] would great. Not a lot of people get this opportunity. So we have to make the best of it."
Barrett, the son of former Canada international and current Canada Basketball Executive VP Rowan Barrett, was close to missing the tournament in Zaragoza, where the Canadians have a legitimate chance of winning their first title - and achieving their second podium finish following third place in 2010.
The 1.98m guard's experience of more than a week with the senior national team definitely helped him and will help the U17 team.
"It was difficult playing against the bigger, stronger guys. But it meant a lot," said Barrett, who played in Canada’s OQT warm-up game against Croatia.
In limited minutes Rowan RJ Barrett scored 5 points in his Canadian Senior Mens Nat'l Team debut Monday vs Croatia. pic.twitter.com/ZPmdqIHUTD— Hoops Hype Canada (@HoopsHypeCA) June 21, 2016
"I leaned how to play at a different pace and the strength of all the other guys and to play smarter. A lot of things."
His one game came against Croatia and he totalled 5 points. When asked about his favourite moment, Barrett said: "I had a step-back three and all the guys were encouraging me because I hadn’t been playing particularly well. It was fun."
It was fun to dream a bit about the seniors but now it's time for Barrett to try to lead his guys to the U17 title.