Teachers and students at St. Marcellinus Secondary School in Mississauga’s Heartland neighbourhood must be feeling elated. One of the school’s former students, R.J. Barrett, has become a rising basketball star and was just named the 2018 Naismith High School Boys’ Player of The Year.
The 17-year-old Barrett is only the second Canadian to win this prestigious award (Andrew Wiggins was a recipient in 2013). The award is named in honour of Dr. James Naismith, the Canadian creator of basketball. The first Naismith trophy was awarded in 1969 to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor—later known as no other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Barrett’s basketball accomplishments are nothing short of astonishing. They include helping Canada capture a historic gold medal at the FIBA’s under-19 basketball World Cup last summer. He was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) after leading Canada to a 79-60 victory over Italy in the final for the country’s first-ever gold medal in a FIBA world championship or Olympic event. He was the tournament’s leading scorer.
Barrett has been one of the most sought-after basketball talents his age for years, fielding recruiting interest from many schools. His extraordinary basketball mastery is the product of his athletic skills, passion for the hoops, and strength of character, but it may also have something to do with his pedigree.
R.J.’s father is Rowan Barrett. Barrett Sr. played college basketball at St. John’s University before embarking on a professional career. He represented Canada’s men’s national team at the 2000 Olympic Games and the 1998 and 2002 FIBA World Championships. R.J.’s mother, Kesha, was a sprinter on St. John’s track and field team. Both parents always encouraged and supported R.J.’s passion for basketball.
R.J. moved to Florida after being recruited a couple of years ago to attend Montverde Academy —a private school that has emerged as the best high school basketball program in the U.S. And next year he will launch his NCAA career at Duke University in North Carolina. R.J. decided to attend Duke, after fielding NBA scholarship offers from several major U.S. universities.
Speaking to nbadraft.net in April 2017, Roy Rana, the Head Coach of the Ryerson University basketball team who coached Barrett at 2017 U19 World Cup and at the Nike Hoop Summit, was quoted as saying about Barrett: “A star. A potential superstar down the road.”
No doubt, Mississaugans will be watching Barrett’s career with great interest and enjoyment—made greater perhaps by knowledge that that this widely admired basketball star’s formative years were spent in Mississauga.