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Canada Basketball’s RJ Barrett in action vs China on Friday, June 22 in Vancouver. Photo Credit: Har Journalist Sports Media.

VANCOUVER, B.C – It was the RJ Barrett show as Canada’s next basketball star made his senior national team debut in the first of two Pacific Rim Classic games. Canada blew out China 97 – 62 in front of a crowd of 7,636 at Rogers Arena.

The 18 year-old Barrett, got off to a quick start with a thunderous first quarter dunk that delighted fans of both teams. Barrett finished his first his game with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists. He shot 4-9 from the floor, and 8-9 from the line. Most impressive, Barrett did all of this in 20 minutes of action through the first three-quarters.

“I think it was okay.” Barrett told reporters post-game. “I’m still trying to get use to the physicality, and the speed of the game. I think I did okay. It was a lot faster. The guys are more experienced, everybody’s stronger. You have to make decisions quicker, so just try to adjust.”

The Mississauga native, was more than okay. He was the best player on the court in his limited action. Barrett made things happen for himself, and his teammates. China had trouble containing the smooth, and quick teenager who was in control, while still learning on the fly.

“I thought he was great.” Head Coach Jay Triano, said of Barrett’s debut. “I thought he was really good. Defensively there’s a few things he’s got to get a little bit better at. As far as his awareness off the basketball. He’s electric when he has the basketball. He’s got a great feel for the game. He knows how to get the basket. He can make shots. He really didn’t make a lot of jump shots tonight, but he made plays for other people.”

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Canada Basketball’s RJ Barrett in action vs China on Friday, June 22 in Vancouver. Photo Credit: Har Journalist Sports Media.

In an era where we place high expectations on the next, best, top professional athlete, they don’t always rise to the occasion. Pressure, performance, and opportunities don’t always translate to success. Barrett ticked all the boxes against Team China.

“(I’m) just as competitor. Driving, slashing, passing. Whatever really the team needs, that’s what I try to do.” Barrett said, of his game style.”

It’s not easy for a young player who has always been told how great he is, that he’s the next Canadian basketball superstar. Barrett is now going from being a big fish in a small pond, to a fish in a massive pond trying to navigate his future.

“It’s a different experience, but it’s a lot of fun.” Barrett said. “Everybody gets to do their thing, everybody played well. That kind of game is always fun.”

The Monteverde Academy product will look to grow and develop his game next fall in the NCAA with Duke University. The Blue Devils have a long history of producing top end NBA players. RJ Barrett is heading to North Carolina with a clear and open mindset.

“I’m not perfect with anything.” Barrett admitted. “I really want to work on all aspects of my game.”

As for how long Barrett will commit to playing for Coach Krzyzewski at Duke, he wasn’t about to tip his hand. First and foremost, he wants to cut down the nets next March.

“Watching the draft was pretty cool.” Barrett said. “Some of my friends got drafted. I can’t look too far forward, just got to focus on getting to Duke, and try to win a National Championship.”

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Canada Basketball’s RJ Barrett speaking to reporters on Friday, June 22 in Vancouver. Photo Credit: Har Journalist Sports Media.

RJ Barrett follows a long line of Canadian basketball players from the GTA. You could perhaps call it the Vince Carter effect. Barrett grew up watching players that Carter influenced during his time with the Toronto Raptors.

“When I was growing up, Andrew Wiggins was coming up, Tristan Thompson, Corey Joseph, those guys were coming up. I also grew up watching my dad. Those kind of people inspired me.”

The future is bright for Canada basketball, and it’s especially brighter now that RJ Barrett is in the fold. Canada has another talented, skilled, and promising young player that should represent the red and white for many, many years to come.

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my latest story on Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – There’s going to be a home-coming this week as one of Canada’s brightest NBA stars returns to play in B.C. – Kamloops native, Kelly Olynyk, will play his first game in his home province, as Canada Basketball returns to Vancouver for the first time in eight years.

As part of the Pacific Rim Basketball Classic, it will be Canada vs China on Friday night at Rogers Arena, and Sunday afternoon at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria. Sixty-five percent of tickets have been sold for both games.

“It’s fun to be back in Canada playing the game for our country.” Olynyk told reporters at the Richmond Oval. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there.”

The 13th overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft has progressed immensely since his NCAA days with the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Canada Basketball Assistant General Manager, and Executive Vice Present, Rowan Barrett, knows how much Olynyk has developed since his days at South Kamloops Secondary School.

“I’ve been watching Kelly progress since high school. He was in our national elite development academy. I’ve had him in high school from a child that grew six or seven inches in one year and trying to figure out his body, going into Gonzaga playing a completely different position, than he normally played, was a huge transition for him. It took him some time, he had to build his body and get stronger so he could bang down low with those big guys.

I think he’s done a great job over his career, really developing both. The ability that he always had, to face the basket, play, make decisions, and choices. He affects the game with his unselfishness and skill, as well as his IQ. He also has enough strength to go rough and tumble-down low when he needs to with the bigs. I think he’s done a great job mixing both things. I think it’s one of the reasons why he’s been a sought after player, and he’s doing really well in the NBA.”

The growth and evolution in Olynyk’s game while playing four seasons with the Boston Celtics helped him sign a lucrative contract when he became a free agent last summer.

The 27 year-old, took his talents to South Beach signing a four-year contract worth $50 million with Miami. In his first season with the Heat, Olynyk set career highs in games played (76), points per game(11.5), rebounds(5.7), and assists(2.7).

His on court NBA success, and new contract might leave you wondering why Olynyk would make himself available for an exhibition series, and subsequent FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 America Qualifiers next month.

Some of Canada’s NBA veterans have ‘Wigged Out’, but not Olynyk.

“Yeah, it’s important.” Olynyk said, of his commitment to Canada Basketball. “The country that gave you all the opportunities to do what you do in life, and kind of raised you. It’s a way to give back to the nation and the people that supported you, and helped you be where you are.”

The 7’0 foot Olynyk is part of a new breed of NBA big men. He’s not going to simply rely on backing in, posting up, and going for a lay-up, or hook-shot. He can lead a fast break, shoot a fade-away jumper, deliver from beyond the arc, and dish out dimes.

“I think his percentages in the NBA speak to the fact that he can shoot the three ball.” Barrett explained. “I think for him, it’s not just the shooting. It’s everything out on the perimeter. Being so big, being able to provide an advantage to his team by forcing their tallest players sometimes to have leave the painted area to come out and guard. He can dribble and pass as well. If you can only shoot, and they stop you from shooting. Then your easily guarded. If you stop him from shooting, then you can put the ball on the floor. Then he can make decisions just as good as a guard. He’s very very versatile, and I think you’re right. He’s specific to the game that is being played right now in the NBA.”

Head Coach Jay Triano likes how Olynyk has improved his game, and stepped up. Olynyk has the experience, and knowledge to help lead a young Canadian national team.

“Unselfishness, his ability to pass the ball, ability to shoot the ball.” Triano said, of Olynyk’s top qualities. “I think he’s kind of like the prototype in the NBA now. The five-man can do a lot more than be a low post player. They can make plays from the top of the key. If you don’t respect them, they can make shots as well. He fits that mould of the way the NBA is trending.”

You won’t find a more exemplary athlete that represents himself, his country, and the National Basketball Association. Olynyk gets it. He wants to help Canada thrive and succeed as a basketball nation. This is no surprise to Barrett.

“He’s very deserving.” Barrett said. “It’s not just the talent, size, and all that, that he has. It’s the work ethic. Kelly’s a grinder. He doesn’t ask for anything, he gets what he earns, and he’s got a tremendous attitude. You always want to see people, and athletes like that succeed, and so we’re very very happy for him.”

In an era where Canada Basketball is producing more, and more top talent. You still need grinders who bring it every game. That’s what Kelly Olynyk brings, and that’s why Canada is lucky to have him in red and white.

 

 

 

 

 

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MONTREAL, Quebec – Please visit Red Nation Online for player reaction on The Winning 2026 United Bid.

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for 2018 FIFA World Cup predictions from Vancouver Whitecaps FC players.

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Hamilton, Ontario –  Please visit Equalizer Soccer for my Canada vs Germany match report.

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Canada vs Germany from Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario. June 10, 2018.

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