Where some would see a gym, a basket and lacquered floor, Rowan Barrett sees another dot on a map that stretches to Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, France and countless stops within Canada and the United States.
At 39, Barrett is Canada Basketball’s new assistant GM and executive VP of the senior men’s team under Steve Nash and one of the centerpieces in an executive team unveiled Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.
Barrett, one of the country’s longest serving national team players, will be the eyes and ears of the program in gymnasiums across the country and around the world.
Nash, a Hall of Fame-bound player and perennial NBA all-star, monopolized the media with the announcement that he was returning to Canada to guide the program. Fair enough; the 38-year-old Victoria native plans to visit as many prospects and players as possible. Still, as an active NBA player Nash will depend on his longtime teammate Barrett for much of the legwork.
“There are so many things you can accomplish when you are involved in the players careers, not just 18-year-old players but 10-11 and 12-year old players who are on the way up,” Barrett said.
To Barrett a gym is a workplace. Where he sits depends on what he is trying to accomplish.
“I like to be up as close to the action as possible, to really get a feel for the game,” Barrett said. “But a lot of times, if I’m at a camp for example, I want to be with the NBA people to better answer their questions and talk about our players. Other times I will be sitting with a player’s family. Some like to sit back, others like to hang over the court and cheer their players on.”
Recruiting for the national team, Barrett said, is only part of the organization’s mandate.
“When you go to the gym you are able to help the player cultivate his game. You’re able to talk to his coach and his parents and be as sounding board for all the people involved in helping the player improve. You can’t’ do that unless you put in the time.”
What distinguishes the national program, the chance to play in far-flung gymnasiums with different lighting, refereeing and fans is invaluable in the polishing of the prospect, Barrett said.
“When you’ve played in those places, at altitude in different gyms, you are mentally stronger when you return to North America and play in more pristine environments.”