Knicks Are Getting Two 'Alpha Dogs' In R.J. Barrett and Iggy Brazdeikis, Canadian Youth Coach Says

RJ Barrett and Iggy Brazdeikis were introduced by the Knicks on Friday.

Adam Zagoria

The last man to coach R.J. Barrett and Iggy Brazdeikis on the same team has some words of wisdom for Knicks coach David Fizdale and Knicks fans.

David DeAveiro coached the duo on the Canadian U17 team at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Spain in 2016.

"They're two talented young kids, but the key word is young, right?" DeAveiro, the head coach at McGill University, said by phone Monday as he was about to take off for Greece with the Canadian U19 team. "There's going to be growing pains with both of them, but they're both confident kids. They both believe in their abilities and what they can do and what they can bring to the team.

"They're both like alpha dogs, pretty much, so they're not going to go into the league lacking any confidence. They're going to play with confidence. They're going to be asked to do some things and they're going to fail sometimes and they're going to do well sometimes."

Canada finished fifth in that U17 World Championship, with Barrett and Brazdeikis leading the team in scoring at 18.4 points and 14.7 points per game, respectively. The roster also featured former Vanderbilt forward Simi Shittu, who will player Summer League with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Barrett went on to lead the Canadian U19 team to its first ever gold medal at that level in the FIBA U19 World Championship in Egypt in 2017. Barrett was named the MVP of the event, which included a 38-point, 13-rebound, 5-assist tour de force over a John Calipari-coached U.S. team in the semifinals and then an 18-12-4 outing against Italy in the gold-medal game.

Brazdeikis did not play at the U19 level, but Barrett said he loves playing with his fellow Canadian.

"That was a really fun team," Barrett said Friday at the Knicks press conference when I asked his recollections. "I just remember Iggy and I worked really well together on the court. We worked really well together."

Said DeAveiro: "They kind of complement each other. Iggy can play on the perimeter a little bit, can get to the rim, where R.J.'s more of a slasher, a transition guy, so Iggy kind of spaces the floor out a little more, and R.J. attacks the rim. The one thing that R.J. does really well is he can pass the ball, and when they played together we had R.J. looking for Iggy for the three a couple times.

"I think they both really have confidence in each other and they play off of each other."

DeAveiro said "we knew we were coaching potentially two pros and so the hard part about coaching those kids is you gotta coach 'em up, but you gotta let 'em play and be themselves."

The Knicks are preaching "patience" to their fan base and hoping that a young nucleus led by Barrett, Brazdeikis, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith can jell over time and make the Knicks a contender in the East.

The team will open Summer League play July 5 against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, which will mark the first time Barrett and Williamson will square off as pros.

DeAveiro said Barrett is ready to be the face of the Knicks if the team fails to land Kevin Durant or other big-time free agents with their $74 million in cap space this summer.

Andre Iguodala said Monday of free agents like Durant, ‘’Nobody’s going to the Knicks, sorry.’’

"They're such a young team and they're rebuilding and if they're building around R.J. and they're not going to go out in free agency and get Durant or whoever else they might get, and it becomes about building around R.J., I mean R.J. will embrace that," he said. "That's who R.J. is.

"But they're going to make a lot of mistakes and [Fizdale] is going to have to let R.J. be R.J., and you grow from that. The one thing about R.J. Failure's not one thing he's too concerned with. He had a couple tough games throughout the year at Duke, and he just bounced right back in the next game. It doesn't faze him.

"Iggy's the same way. These guys are too extremely confident kids who played for two really good college coaches [John Beilein and Mike Krzyzewski] who probably prepared them for the NBA and what it was going to be like in the NBA and the pressures that come with it and how to be a pro. I think they're both ready to go."

The 6-foot-7 Barrett, 19, averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists last year at Duke. Only three college freshmen ever -- Durant, Trae Young and Michael Beasley -- scored more points than him.

The 6-8 Brazdeikis, 20, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after averaging 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds at Michigan.

"R.J. wants to be the face of the franchise," DeAveiro said. "If anything, I'm sure R.J. would be happy to have Durant on his team. But if not, he wants to be the next Durant in his own little way. Not to follow in Durant's footsteps but he wants to be the face of the franchise and be that guy that when they talk about the Knicks, they're talking about R.J. and the Knicks."

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RJ Barrett and Iggy Brazdeikis were introduced by the Knicks on Friday.

Adam Zagoria

The last man to coach R.J. Barrett and Iggy Brazdeikis on the same team has some words of wisdom for Knicks coach David Fizdale and Knicks fans.

David DeAveiro coached the duo on the Canadian U17 team at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Spain in 2016.

"They're two talented young kids, but the key word is young, right?" DeAveiro, the head coach at McGill University, said by phone Monday as he was about to take off for Greece with the Canadian U19 team. "There's going to be growing pains with both of them, but they're both confident kids. They both believe in their abilities and what they can do and what they can bring to the team.

"They're both like alpha dogs, pretty much, so they're not going to go into the league lacking any confidence. They're going to play with confidence. They're going to be asked to do some things and they're going to fail sometimes and they're going to do well sometimes."

Canada finished fifth in that U17 World Championship, with Barrett and Brazdeikis leading the team in scoring at 18.4 points and 14.7 points per game, respectively. The roster also featured former Vanderbilt forward Simi Shittu, who will player Summer League with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Barrett went on to lead the Canadian U19 team to its first ever gold medal at that level in the FIBA U19 World Championship in Egypt in 2017. Barrett was named the MVP of the event, which included a 38-point, 13-rebound, 5-assist tour de force over a John Calipari-coached U.S. team in the semifinals and then an 18-12-4 outing against Italy in the gold-medal game.

Brazdeikis did not play at the U19 level, but Barrett said he loves playing with his fellow Canadian.

"That was a really fun team," Barrett said Friday at the Knicks press conference when I asked his recollections. "I just remember Iggy and I worked really well together on the court. We worked really well together."

Said DeAveiro: "They kind of complement each other. Iggy can play on the perimeter a little bit, can get to the rim, where R.J.'s more of a slasher, a transition guy, so Iggy kind of spaces the floor out a little more, and R.J. attacks the rim. The one thing that R.J. does really well is he can pass the ball, and when they played together we had R.J. looking for Iggy for the three a couple times.

"I think they both really have confidence in each other and they play off of each other."

DeAveiro said "we knew we were coaching potentially two pros and so the hard part about coaching those kids is you gotta coach 'em up, but you gotta let 'em play and be themselves."

The Knicks are preaching "patience" to their fan base and hoping that a young nucleus led by Barrett, Brazdeikis, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith can jell over time and make the Knicks a contender in the East.

The team will open Summer League play July 5 against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, which will mark the first time Barrett and Williamson will square off as pros.

DeAveiro said Barrett is ready to be the face of the Knicks if the team fails to land Kevin Durant or other big-time free agents with their $74 million in cap space this summer.

Andre Iguodala said Monday of free agents like Durant, ‘’Nobody’s going to the Knicks, sorry.’’

"They're such a young team and they're rebuilding and if they're building around R.J. and they're not going to go out in free agency and get Durant or whoever else they might get, and it becomes about building around R.J., I mean R.J. will embrace that," he said. "That's who R.J. is.

"But they're going to make a lot of mistakes and [Fizdale] is going to have to let R.J. be R.J., and you grow from that. The one thing about R.J. Failure's not one thing he's too concerned with. He had a couple tough games throughout the year at Duke, and he just bounced right back in the next game. It doesn't faze him.

"Iggy's the same way. These guys are too extremely confident kids who played for two really good college coaches [John Beilein and Mike Krzyzewski] who probably prepared them for the NBA and what it was going to be like in the NBA and the pressures that come with it and how to be a pro. I think they're both ready to go."

The 6-foot-7 Barrett, 19, averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists last year at Duke. Only three college freshmen ever -- Durant, Trae Young and Michael Beasley -- scored more points than him.

The 6-8 Brazdeikis, 20, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after averaging 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds at Michigan.

"R.J. wants to be the face of the franchise," DeAveiro said. "If anything, I'm sure R.J. would be happy to have Durant on his team. But if not, he wants to be the next Durant in his own little way. Not to follow in Durant's footsteps but he wants to be the face of the franchise and be that guy that when they talk about the Knicks, they're talking about R.J. and the Knicks."

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I'm a Basketball Insider and tennis writer. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), I am also the author of two books and an award-winning jour...