It's a great time to be a basketball fan in Canada. One could argue that it's never been better. What do we mean by that?
Well, for one, the Toronto Raptors are off to their best start ever—in fact, they've only lost once in their first 12 games. But if the Raptors are Canadian basketball's exciting present, R.J. Barrett is its stunning future.
For those who are unfamiliar: Rowan Alexander "R.J." Barrett Jr. is an 18 year-old from Mississauga, Ontario. Already a star of Canada's Under-19 national team and high school basketball, he was heavily recruited—or sought after—by the biggest basketball colleges in the United States. (In basketball, college is kind of like a junior league before becoming a pro—its best players are then drafted, or selected, by teams in the NBA.) Barrett eventually chose to attend Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Now even before he had played a single game, experts knew that R.J. Barrett was good. Then he actually played that single game on Tuesday night. And the basketball world?
Well, it went nuts...
So fresh and so mean
On Tuesday, the Duke Blue Devils played the Kentucky Wildcats. Just like Duke, Kentucky has a prestigious basketball program that is one of the best in the country. In fact, many experts had predicted not only that the Wildcats would win the game, but that they will win this year's national championship.
And hey, maybe they still will. But last night, they lost. And by lost, we mean they were blown away.
Duke won 118-84. Not only did they lead from the start against an elite team, but they did it being led by a group of freshmen, or first-year players. Think about that for a second—this is the first time these rookies have ever played in this league. And yet three Duke freshmen—R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish—scored 83 points all by themselves. That's just one less point than the entire Kentucky team!
Just one game ... but what a game!
Two of those freshman even broke a record for the most points in a debut game for Duke. Williamson scored 28 points, including a bunch of monster dunks. And Barrett? He scored 33 points. Even for a player as hyped as he's been, experts were amazed. Many are calling it one of the best-ever college basketball debuts. A few are even saying that having him and Williamson on the same team is unfair.
Either way, we know, we know. It's just one game. We're sure that Barrett and Duke will get tested at some point this season. But forgive us if we're not just a little proud of this homegrown sensation.
Canadian basketball is getting better all the time—good luck, R.J.!