By RON FANFAIR
Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
While in Toronto in the spring of 1991 to meet top prospect Martin Keane, who had just completed two years at a junior college and was seeking a basketball scholarship to an American Division One school, then St. John’s University coach Lou Carnesecca decided to check out the defunct all-star classic featuring high school players from this city and Michigan at the University of Toronto gym.
West Hill Collegiate Institute guard Rowan Barrett, who was also looking for an opportunity to play college ball in the U.S., was in the Toronto line-up and he caught the attention of Carnesecca, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Toronto Basketball Association president Kirk Mark introduced the coach to the player, who a few weeks later received a call from the New York university indicating they were interested in signing him to a scholarship.
Barrett spent four years with the Redmen, scoring a career-high 32 points in his final season in 1996 to lead St. John’s past the Louisville Cardinals 86-64 in a nationally televised game. He was also a national team member for 17 years before retiring in 2008.
A day before his 38th birthday last Wednesday, Barrett joined Canada Basketball as director of youth development. He will provide support to key national team prospects, fostering relationships with athletes and their surrounding communities to cultivate the best possible environment for the young players to flourish.
He will also supply leadership at the grassroots level, the “Train-to-Train” and “Train-to-Compete” stages of Canada Basketball’s development model for youth between the ages of 11 and 18.
Focusing on long term athlete development principles such as physical, mental, cognitive and emotional development and calendar planning for competition, Barrett is also expected to provide tangible resources for mentoring in academics, nutrition and sports science to help young men maximize their growth as players and people both on and off the court.
“This is the first time in the history of Canada Basketball that someone who has been a part of the grassroots system has been asked to come back and relate that experience,” said Mark. “A lot of positive relationships will evolve from Rowan’s ability to understand the plight of those involved with urban basketball.”
Barrett said the appointment signals that Canada Basketball is serious about helping young players develop their potential.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to groom our youth for long term success,” he said. “We will work to build a bridge from Canada Basketball into our grassroots basketball communities in order to leverage all of our basketball knowledge and abilities with a holistic year-round approach to development.
“As we build a sustainable model for youth development domestically, success will eventually follow from the age group level teams all the way up to our senior level at the highest levels of international basketball.”
Maurizio Gherardini, the senior national team managing director, said there is no one better than Barrett who understands the values that Canada Basketball is trying to pursue and share.
“This is an important appointment as we are committed to the growth of the game throughout the country and we needed to establish some sort of link with the young athletes, their families, their coaches and their communities and develop better ways to support them and let Canada Basketball become a point of reference in their lives,” he said. “Rowan will be there for them and we believe it’s a step forward in the right direction.”
Barrett played professionally in Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy and France. He was a member of the national team that finished seventh in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a contracted player with the Toronto Raptors in 1997 and 1999.
The former Canadian captain was also under contract with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1999, but never played a regular season game with those teams.
Barrett led Canada to a silver medal in the 1993 World University Games and participated in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Championships in 1998 and 2002.
“Playing for Canada was always an exhilarating experience,” he said. “Listening to the national anthem while donning the red and white always filled my teammates and I with an enormous sense of pride, honour and responsibility.”