‘Our family is devastated’

Toronto Raptors forward RJ Barrett will remain away from the team indefinitely following the death of his younger brother, Nathan. The Raptors and Canada Basketball — Rowan Barrett, RJ and Nathan’s father, is the program’s general manager — released a statement on Thursday night confirming the news. They did not reveal a cause of death.

The full press release:

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the loss of our beloved son and brother, Nathan Tyler Barrett, who passed away on Tuesday, March 12, surrounded by his family, church and friends.

“While our family is devastated by this great loss, we will continue to cherish the memories and time spent together. Nathan was a God-fearing young man of strong character. He was thoughtful, kind, loving, compassionate, creative, admirable and driven.

“During this difficult time, our family would like to ask for privacy but greatly appreciates the outpouring of love, support and prayers that we have been receiving. Though his time with us was brief, he will live forever in our hearts.”

Nathan followed in RJ’s foosteps and played high school basketball at Monteverde Academy in Florida. His former youth basketball coach, Chris Stewart, said in a tribute that Nathan was preparing to become a pilot.

“Nathan was only with us for a short time in grade 7 before he moved to Florida but whenever he was back in Mississauga the boys connected. I saw Nathan last summer, all grown up, a big smile and he was excited telling me how he was starting school to become a pilot,” Stewart wrote.

“If you have had the pleasure of knowing this family you know how much they do for the basketball community so keep them in your thoughts and prayers. No parent should ever have to bury a child, hug your kids today a little longer. You will be missed Nathan, RIP.”

After spending the first four-plus seasons of his career with the New York Knicks, RJ Barrett was traded to the Raptors in December. He was thrilled to go back to Canada and get the chance to play in his hometown in front of his family and friends.

“Immediately I was happy,” RJ said after the trade. “I grew up a Raptors fan all my life. So to come here and put this jersey on this is gonna be great.”

In 27 games with the Raptors, RJ is averaging 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and four assists, while shooting 55.3% from the field. He did not play in the team’s loss on Wednesday to the Detroit Pistons and has already been ruled out for Friday’s matchup with the Orlando Magic. It is unclear when he’ll return to action.

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