FORT MYERS, Fla. — A lot of players stood out this past week the City of Palms Classic, but R.J. Barrett Jr. made the All-Tournament team as a 15-year-old freshman.
In four games while playing for a very deep Montverde (Fla.) Academy team, the 6-6, 185-pound player from Toronto averaged 19.8 points, six rebounds and four assists. In the Eagles’ sole loss, a 82-81 to Chino Hills, he took over with 31 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
“I think I played well in this tournament by helping my teammates and playing in the flow of the offense,” Barrett said. “In that (Chino Hills) game anybody could have done what I did, but I guess my teammates trusted me.”
While the tournament was Barrett’s breakout moment in high school, his father, R.J. Barrett Sr., a former pro player and player for the Canadian National Team, has seen his son rise to the occasion before.
“Overall, I’m obviously very proud,” R.J. senior said. “I’ve never seen him do that at this level, but he’s normally been this type of player, a fourth-quarter player who likes the pressure and the crowd.”
Besides his father, who said he learned all of basketball skills from, Barrett said he’s had some help from another good source — his godfather Steve Nash, who played alongside R.J. Sr. on the Canadian Olympic team and who bought Barrett his first crib.
“He’s taught me about the competitive side of things,” Barrett said.
Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said Barrett, like any freshman, has plenty to work on.
“As good as he is, he needs to become more physical, he needs to work more on his jump shot,” Boyle said. “He’s very different from Michael Gilchrist, but he reminds me of Michael Gilchrist, the way he creates contact and always fills all the stats.”
His father said that while Montverde is a long way from home for a 15-year-old, other Canadians such as Andrew Wiggins have thrived with elite U.S. high school programs.
“When he left, I felt like I lost both my arms and my legs,” R.J. Sr. said. “It was a challenge. At the same time, I have to understand this is a normal thing at the higher levels of basketball. … At his age, he has to continue to work on everything. In my house, you haven’t done anything when you’re 15. I really like what I see in him at Montverde. They’re not giving him too much too soon because that can crush an athlete.”
Montverde (11-1), which had made the last three title games, finished fifth this year.