Canada Basketball thoughts: RJ youngest ever Senior team invitee

By now most are aware that several NBA players, including 6’7″ Andrew Wiggins, have decided that it is more important to prepare for the up-coming professional season than playing for their country.  I have great confidence that our coaching staff will be well prepared with those players who are in camp and remain confident that we have a chance to get to Rio later this summer… Canada Basketball also has taken the bold step of inviting 6’5″ R.J. Barrett to the main Senior team camp while the team Barrett last summer helped qualify for the U17 World championships continues their campaign in France/Spain in the coming days (team flew to France this past Friday).  Barrett is rated as the #1 16 year old player in the world by several scouting services and completed a very strong freshman season at Montverde Academy in Florida this past season.  Barrett missed much of training camp with the U17’s while taking exams in Florida, getting into one practice, and may yet still join his age group in Europe depending upon his progress.  One observer indicated that Barrett’s first practice yesterday morning was strong.  Recall that U17’s start their pre-World’s exhibition tour in Toulouse, Spain this coming Wednesday vs. France and then Thursday vs. Australia and Friday vs. Argentina.  The U17’s go for real a week from Wednesday, June 23rd vs. Australia in Spain.  The Senior Men’s team trains in Toronto until this coming Wednesday, June 16th before leaving for Europe where they play their first of 4 exhibitions against Croatia on 20th June.  The wheels will be turning over the next 48-72 hours regarding which players will travel to Croatia and where R.J. ends up playing this early summer.  Barrett’s invitation to the main camp conjures up discussions on the youngest players to ever suit up for the Senior Men’s team over the past 25-30 years and, thanks to our resident CB historian, we can relatively safely confirm that Barrett is the youngest ever invitee to the Senior team camp – RJ just turned 16 on June 6 of this year.  The incomparable Steve Nash was 18 at the 1992 Olympic Qualifying Camp in Victoria, B.C. and in Grade 12.  Nash was generally regarded as a long shot to make the Senior squad because there was depth at the point with Eli Pasquale as the starter and Utah-born but Canadian citizen Ronn McMahon (Eastern Washington) backing him up, but Pasquale got hurt and instead of using Nash, the staff brought in Montreal native Trevor “Turbo” Williams to add depth. Nash was relegated to the B-team (coached by CIS mentors Dave Nutbrown – Acadia and John Dore – Concordia).  Nash made his Senior team debut at age 19 in 1993 summer between 1st and 2nd years at Santa Clara.  That summer, Canada Head Coach Ken Shields allowed Nash to also play on the U-22 and World University Games before calling him up for the 1993 Tournament of Americas (Canada were already in the Worlds the next year as hosts after Belgrade had to withdraw).  Nash’s now-infamous cut from a national program occurred in 1991 (he was between Grade 11 and 12) as Ken Olynyk and staff cut him from the 1991 World Junior Team (U-20 at the time).  Present Cape Breton AD and former Caper John Ryan, Montreal’s Peter Walcott and the now-famous Raptor commentator Sherman Hamilton were the guards kept ahead of him.  Canada Basketball’s other legendary youngster, Leo Rautins – who was an incredible player as a big wing:  way ahead of his time – was a very significant player for Canada in 1977 which was between his Grade 11 and 12 year.  Rautins was born March 20, 1960, so he had just turned 17.  Recall that Rautins played only 4 seasons of high school basketball before accepting a full scholarship at Minnesota where in his freshman season in the Big 10 he finished second in the entire conference in assists to someone named Earvin “Magic” Johnson at Michigan State.  Going back even further, Winnipeg’s Martin Riley was very young when he joined in another nothing year (1973).   Born on May 8, 1955 according to Wikipedia, Riley, a sweet shooting guard, joined the national team in 1973 so 17/18 depending on how early they started that year. Riley remains one of Canada’s most overlooked great international players.  He was a starter on our Montreal 1976 Olympic team at the age of 21 and captain of the 1980 team that qualified and boycotted.  So, RJ Barrett has a chance to make Canadian basketball history, having just turned 16 years old and an invitee to the Senior Men’s team.  We should know mid this week whether or not Barrett will travel to Europe on the roster of the Senior team or join his U17 teammates who are looking to medal at the World’s.


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