Rick Pitino lauds ‘amazing’ RJ Barrett after clutch Canada performance

Barrett poured in 12 fourth-quarter points to key Canada’s 97-91 victory over Greece in an Olympic qualifier.

RJ Barrett racked up 22 points for Team Canada Tuesday, and praise – even if backhanded – from Greece coach Rick Pitino.

Back on the court for the first time since June 2 when the Knicks were eliminated by the Hawks, Barrett was rusty in the first half. But he poured in 12 fourth-quarter points to key Canada’s 97-91 victory over Greece in an Olympic qualifier in Victoria, British Columbia.

Barrett, who started at shooting guard, hit two free throws with 34 seconds left that clinched it. Canada still must win out to make it to Tokyo, and it faces China Wednesday night before the elimination round this weekend.

Pitino, the Iona coach and formerly at Louisville, said of the Knicks 2019 lottery pick out of Duke:

“Barrett in college couldn’t really shoot a 12-foot shot and I absolutely love players that work at their game and get better. I’m obviously a big Knicks fan so I’m a big RJ fan, but the fact that he’s improved so much is amazing to me.”

“If you give him his left hand he’s unstoppable,” Pitino added of the 2019 No. 3 overall pick. “He’s strong. He’s tough.”

Iona coach Rick Pitino is also the head coach of the Greek men’s national team.

Barrett scored just three points in the first half. He finished 8 of 14 – just 1 of 6 from the shortened FIBA 3-point stripe. He hit 5 of 7 free throws.

“It was our first time playing together [so] I was definitely sloppy coming out for the gate, but picked it up and we got it done collectively,” said Barrett, a Toronto-area native.

RJ Barrett celebrates Canada’s win over Greece on June 29, 2021.
The Canadian Press via AP

Canada hasn’t made the Olympics since 2000 but has eight NBA players, including Andrew Wiggins. Barrett’s father, Rowan, who played at St. John’s, is the Canadian team’s GM.

“Last time we made the Olympics, my dad was wearing 9 and now I’m wearing it,” Barrett said. “It feels right.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

Follow us on Google News