Canada's R.J. Barrett adds to trophy case as U.S. player of the year
Ontario native also won Naismith award, named McDonald's All-American
R.J. Barrett and his family were waiting for the valet to bring their car around at an Orlando, Fla., steakhouse when Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum drove up in the family vehicle instead. Tatum got out, holding the Gatorade U.S. national boys player of the year award.
Suddenly, Barrett's coaches and teammates from Florida's Montverde Academy came rushing around the corner, mobbing him as the 2018 award winner.
"I was shocked, I couldn't move," said Barrett on Thursday, shortly after learning that he'd won the award. "Just to have all my family and friends there was really fun."
Barrett, from Mississauga, Ont., led Florida's Montverde Academy to an undefeated 31-0 regular season. He's the second Canadian to win the award, given to the best high school athlete each year regardless of sport, after Andrew Wiggins earned it in 2013.
He led Montverde to titles at the IYBS Invitational (Beijing, China), Iolani Classic (Honolulu, Hawaii), Beach Ball Classic (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), Hoophall Classic (Springfield, Mass.) and Metro Classic (Union, N.J.), this season, earning MVP honours at each tournament.
Accolades adding up
Barrett, who has committed to play for Duke University, was also named a McDonald's All-American this season and was named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year.
"I'd say the undefeated season that we've had so far at Montverde is the biggest accomplishment," said Barrett. "I don't think I'd be getting all of these awards without it. It definitely helps a lot being undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country."
NBA stars that have won the multi-sport award include Tatum (2016), LeBron James (2003), Dwight Howard (2004), Kevin Love (2007) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2014).
"It was a great feeling to come back and present him the award that I won two years ago. I remember how excited I was," said Tatum, who also went to Duke. "He has a bright future. He's already a great player right now and hopefully he keeps working and he'll be fine."
The 17-year-old Barrett helped Canada capture a historic gold medal at the FIBA under-19 basketball World Cup last summer.
He was named 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. Barrett was the tournament's leading scorer, averaging 21.6 points per game, to go along with 8.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals.
"There's been a lot of great Canadian players lately and it's really growing, the number of successful Canadian players, but you could make the argument that he's the most accomplished player in the history of Canadian basketball at his age," said Kevin Boyle, Barrett's head coach at Montverde. "Leading the team to the gold medal, winning the most valuable player in that tournament, being the national player of the year, and so far leading his team to a No. 1 ranking and an undefeated season."