After a host of American players dropped their names from consideration for Team USA ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China later this month, the Canadian national program is receiving its lumps of coal as well.
Andrew Wiggins recently took his name out of the hat and now R.J. Barrett, the former Duke star and third overall pick by the New York Knicks at the 2019 NBA Draft, has had to pull out due to a mild calf strain suffered during Summer League action in Las Vegas, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
New York Knicks No. 3 pick RJ Barrett will not play for Canada in the FIBA World Cup due to management of a mild calf strain sustained during Las Vegas summer league, sources told @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 1, 2019
Set to face some stiff competition in their group from Lithuania and Australia, Barrett’s absence is certainly a blow to Canada’s hopes of making it through to the knockout stages and potentially winning a medal.
The 19-year-old played 38 games for Duke last season, averaging 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists before showing some encouraging signs in Summer League competition after a slow start to finish with 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists over five games.
Barrett has already helped Canada earn national acclaim by leading the youth team to glory at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 2017, highlighted by a 38-point, 13-rebound, five-assist performance to defeat the United States 99-87 in the semifinals. He made his debut for the senior team in June of 2018 with 16 points in a crushing win over China.
Canada figures to have plenty of depth at the guard position from Jamal Murray to Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Cory Joseph, but Barrett figured to be the starting small forward on this roster with Wiggins out of the mix. Now, there’s every chance Melvin Ejim gets to make the role his own.
While Barrett would love to do everything in his power to help Canada at the FIBA World Cup, he’s got to be wary of his responsibilities to the Knicks as their new face of the franchise and not risk further injury.
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