The New York Knicks picked R.J. Barrett third overall in the NBA draft, kicking off a record-setting night for Canadian basketball.
A native of Mississauga, Ont., and a star with Duke, the six-foot-seven Barrett was the highest-ranked Canadian selected on Thursday night. He was the first of four Canadians selected in the first round of the NBA draft, a new record for Basketball Canada.
A fifth Canadian was selected in the second round, tying a record for most players picked from any country outside the United States in a single draft. That record was set by France in 2016.
Virginia Tech guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker of Toronto was selected 17th overall by the Brooklyn Nets, the second Canadian picked in the draft. Vancouver-born and Arizona-raised Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga was taken four picks later, going to the Oklahoma City Thunder at 21st overall.
Mfiondu Kabengele of Burlington, Ont., who played for Florida State last season, was drafted by the Nets 27th overall. However, ESPN reported that Brooklyn had a deal in place with the Clippers that will send Kabengele to Los Angeles.
Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis of Oakville, Ont., was drafted in the second round, 47th overall, by the Sacramento Kings to match the worldwide record as the fifth Canadian selected.
The evening was a continuation of a memorable week for Canadian basketball. A massive crowd cheered on the NBA champion Raptors during a parade and rally in downtown Toronto on Monday, four days after the team became the first squad from outside the U.S., to capture the crown.
Canada’s record for most players taken in the draft was set in 2014 when four were selected, including three in the first round.
Barrett, the son of Canadian men’s basketball team general manager and former national team standout player Rowan Barrett, was the highest Canadian picked since Andrew Wiggins went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014.
The younger Barrett wore a pink suit with black shirt, tie and pocket square. The lining of his suit was made of Canadian flags.
Anthony Bennett of Brampton, Ont., also went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013.
On Thursday, the New Orleans Pelicans started the draft by taking Duke’s Zion Williamson. The Memphis Grizzlies followed by scooping up Murray State guard Ja Morant.
The NBA champion Toronto Raptors entered the night without a pick in the first round. They owned the 59th overall pick.