R.J. Barrett shines in debut as Team Canada defeats China

R.J. Barrett had 16 points in Canada's win over China at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2018.
R.J. Barrett had 16 points in Canada's win over China at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2018. Jon Azpiri/Global News

VANCOUVER – R.J. Barrett, the teen Canadian basketball phenom who is heading to Duke University this fall, made his debut with Canada’s senior men’s basketball team, on Friday and did not disappoint, leading his team to a 97-62 win over China in an exhibition match at Rogers Arena ahead of FIBA World Cup qualifying.

Barrett finished with 16 points and two assists and largely looked at home playing alongside older teammates, several of whom had NBA experience.

Following the game, Barrett walked gingerly into the press room to address the media.

“It’s my first men’s game, so I’m a little sore,” he said.

“It’s a lot faster, the guys are more experienced, everybody’s stronger, you have to make decisions quicker, so I’m just trying to adjust.

“It’s a different experience, but it’s a lot of fun.”

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Barrett is heading to Duke this fall and there is already speculation that he will enter the NBA draft next year.

“He’s electric when he’s got the basketball,” Canada head coach Jay Triano said. “He’s got a great feel for the game. He knows how to get to the basket.”

Chris Boucher, on the same day he was waived by the Golden State Warriors, led Canada with 17 points and five blocked shots.

Boucher drew one of the biggest cheers of the night from the Rogers Arena crowd when he had back-to-back blocks on China’s Qian Wu and Jun-Fei Ren.

Qian Wu had 27 points in a game where China never had the lead.

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Barrett scored the game’s first basket as Canada jumped out to a 28-18 first quarter lead.

Former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett hit back-to-back threes to give Canada a 40-21 lead with just over six minutes left in the second quarter.

Bennett was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter as was Chinese coach Feng Du.

Canada and China will play again Sunday in Victoria.

The two-game series is a warmup as Canada prepares for World Cup qualifying matches against the Dominican Republic on Friday at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum and the U.S. Virgin Islands July 2 at Ottawa’s TD Place.

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Canada has a 3-1 record in Group D of the American Qualifiers which also consists of the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each team faces the other three teams on a home and away basis with the top three teams from each group advancing to the second round.

Canada can secure first place in the group by beating the Dominican Republic by at least 12 points and scoring a win over the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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The next round of qualifying continues with games in September, November and February 2019.

The last time Canada qualified for the World Cup was 2010.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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