Barnes delivered a standout freshman campaign north of the border and was extremely grateful to have the support of not just one city, but an entire nation to help fuel him.
"Having a whole country behind your back, being at your side for your ups, downs, through each and every game. That keeps supporting you through no matter what is happening. It feels amazing," Barnes said while livestreaming video games over the weekend. "Like I tell people all the time, you got an NBA team but it's a city, or state supporting you. But in Toronto, you got a whole country behind you, cheering you on, showing you love no matter what. It's amazing.
"I feel like I'm super blessed to be in this spot. I feel like I got drafted by the right team. Super blessed."
The Raptors caused quite a stir by selecting Barnes over Jalen Suggs with the fourth-overall pick in the 2021 draft, but their confidence in the Florida State University product paid off as he captured 2022 Rookie of the Year honours. Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 49.2 percent shooting from the floor over 74 contests.
Barnes isn't the only Raptor singing Toronto's praises this offseason. Veteran point guard Fred VanVleet made it clear he wants to spend his entire career with the organization.
"We have a great relationship with the city, the franchise, ownership, management. It's a match made in heaven for me," VanVleet told Adam Laskaris of the Daily Hive. "I love being a Toronto Raptor and hopefully we can continue that on."
These comments from Barnes and VanVleet are a far cry from the days when the Raptors notoriously struggled to retain their homegrown stars.
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