The plethora of Knicks fans present at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for last Thursday’s NBA draft overwhelmingly approved of the team’s selection of RJ Barrett with the No. 3 overall pick.
Barrett, a 6-7 guard/forward from Duke, is the son of Rowan Barrett, the general manager of the rising Canadian men’s national basketball team and a former standout for St. John’s from 1992 to 1996. So Rowan Sr. can provide Rowan Jr. with deep and experiential insight on what it is like to play under a large microscope in New York City at Madison Square Garden.
Born and raised in Toronto, RJ Barrett has been a star since his early days of high school, when he starred for Montverde Academy in Florida coached by kingmaker Kevin Boyle, who left St. Patrick’s in New Jersey in 2011 to grow Montverde into a national prep power, the same as he did at St. Pat’s. Among the notables coached by Boyle are Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons.
Barrett hopes to achieve what each of the aforementioned players have, which is become an NBA All-Star and like Irving win a title. Some have already pinned the label of franchise player on the young man who just turned 19 on June 14. At his introductory press conference last Friday at the Garden, Barrett was met with this question:
“Do you have big enough shoulders to carry this franchise?” Barrett seemed somewhat taken aback by the query but the fans’ loud roar when his name was announced the previous night by NBA commissioner Adam Silver implied they have high expectations for a player who has shown great promise.
“I haven’t even played a game yet,” responded Barrett, “so why are you going to ask me a question like that?” The answer is obvious. The city and extended Knicks fan base are starving for a winner. While he is not the savior of the franchise and was chosen to be a sturdy building block, the anticipation and expectation that Barrett will help alter the trajectory of the Knicks is palpable. Nevertheless, team president Steve Mills is asking for patience in constructing a playoff and aspirational championship contender. “I think we’re asking [fans] to continue to be patient,” he said at last Friday’s presser, where the Knicks also introduced their other draft pick, 20-year-old, 6-7 forward Iggy Brazdeikis, another Canadian product who played one season for the University of Michigan.
“We laid out a plan when [general manager] Scott [Perry] came on board and then [coach] David [Fizdale] joined us that we were going to build this team the right way,” emphasized Mills.
“We were going to draft well and we were going to be diligent about how we built this team, and not take any shortcuts.” With the uncertainty of signing any major free-agents this summer, Barrett developing into a significant contributor has undeniable urgency for the Knicks.