16 Feb Getting to Know New Yor Knick’s R.J. Barrett
To the surprise of almost everyone, the New York Knicks have been competitive the first half of the 2020-21 NBA season. New York hired Tom Thibodeau during the offseason, and the 2011 Coach of the Year has his team playing extremely hard on a nightly basis. RJ Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is starting to play some good basketball for the Knicks. Last year, Barrett averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Throughout the course of his rookie campaign, the game appeared to be too fast for Barrett, who looked like a deer in the headlights defensively and never seemed confident in the offensive skill set that made him such an intriguing prospect to begin with. In fairness, his miserable jumper made it easier for teams to defend him, and it caused him to second guess a lot of his decisions. As of this past Sunday, Barrett is averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and looks a lot more comfortable in every aspect of the game. The 20-year-old is becoming one of the best in the league at getting himself to the rim, where he is capable of either finishing or drawing fouls. R.J. comes from an athletic family. His father, Rowan Barrett Sr., played for St. John’s in college and professionally in Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, France and Italy. His mother, Kesha, was a star sprinter and long jumper at St. John’s.
Name: Rowan Alexander “RJ” Barrett Jr.
NickName: Maple Mamba
Born: June 14, 2000 (age 20) in Toronto, Ontario
Height: 6 ft 6 in
Weight: 202 lb
Position: Shooting guard / Small forward
College: Duke (2018–2019)
NBA draft: 2019 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall- Selected by the New York Knicks
How do you think the Knicks season is going so far?
We’re just trying to work hard and grind every day. That’s really what we’re trying to do. We’re really focused. We’ve been giving it our all and we’re going to continue to do that throughout the season.
At what point did you know that you wanted to play in the NBA?
I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to basketball when I was 11 years old. I went to the United States from Europe because I felt it was the best opportunity for me to challenge myself, and it has helped me tremendously.
Which team & players did you love growing up?
I always loved the Knicks. Because I’m young, I used to watch older games. I liked watching the Knicks versus the Pacers. I loved watching John Starks.
Favorite NBA guys growing up?
My father, my g-d father Steve Nash & Lebron.
Who pushed you along to be an NBA basketball player?
Definitely my father. He taught me how to shoot, dribble and pass at a very young age. My father is the executive vice president and assistant general manager of Canada Basketball.
What drives you?
Just my will or my want to be the best. I want to be the best I can be and I want to be the best ever. So I’m not gonna stop until I achieve that. Steve Nash, the two-time MVP, eight-time All-Star & current coach of the Brooklyn Nets is your g-dfather. He believes that you can be as good, if not better than he was in the NBA.
Does he ever give you any advice?
He always tells me to work hard & think like an underdog. If you think like you already made it, you’re not gonna work as hard, you’re not gonna be as motivated. But if you think everything’s stacked against you, you’re gonna go out there and get it. The last time we spoke, you told me how much you loved Tom Brady & the Patriots.
Why do you love Tom Brady so much?
Because he wins. He wins all the time. I love the way Tom Brady approaches the game. He’s, like, what, 43? And he’s still winning titles, so I like that. In the beginning of Covid, you donated $250,000 worth of face masks, disposable face shields, KN95 masks, gowns and microporous disposable coveralls to Brooklyn hospitals.
What compelled you to help the health care providers?
I was just watching the news, seeing how things were getting drastically worse. What really struck me is the workers in the hospitals. These people are risking their lives and they go home and stay in the same house as their family and kids. I wanted to see what I could do to help. My mom grew up in Brooklyn. My family is there, and it hit me a little extra harder. We need to protect those workers as much as they are protecting us.