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Raptors’ Scottie Barnes made his vision a reality in a standout rookie season

The 20-year-old set goals for himself early in his first season in Toronto. One of them was to win Rookie of the Year.

PHILADELPHIA — Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes took a moment Monday night to look at the motivational phrases on his phone’s lock screen, phrases that gave him countless reminders during his award-winning rookie season.

∎ Put myself in a position to take care of my family for the rest of my life.

∎ Be the best player for the Raptors.

∎ Be recognized as a top-selling big player.

∎ Be known as a lead defender.

∎ Be the best player on the court.

∎ Win every game and compete.

∎ Be a true leader by example.

∎ Destroy everyone at practice.

∎ Be Rookie of the Year.

“From Day 1 of training camp, I looked at it every single day to remind myself of what my goals were throughout the season,” Barnes told Andscape after the Raptors’ 103-88 win in Game 5 over the host Philadelphia 76ers. “I really came in with a mindset of just me being me. I take everything day by day. I don’t really look into the future so much. I just really take it as it is. …

“Got my vision of what I want to do. I look at it every single day just to keep reminding me.”

The 20-year-old tallied 12 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to help the Raptors trim their series deficit to 3-2 on Monday after missing Games 2 and 3 with a sprained left ankle. The Raptors’ season continues to be on the line in Game 6 in Toronto, with starting guard Fred VanVleet still expected to be sidelined with a hip injury.

But regardless of how the series plays out for Toronto, Barnes achieved his goal of becoming NBA Rookie of the Year.

Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (right) with Raptors president Masai Ujiri (left). Barnes won the Rookie of the Year award over Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley.

Cole Burston/Getty Images

“He has the fight, drive and determination to want to be great. He wants to guard the best players. He wants to make a stand. He wants to win the game. He brings everything to the table.”

It was announced on April 23 that Barnes beat out Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley to win the award by 15 points, the smallest margin of victory in the 20 seasons the league has conducted voting in its current format. Barnes had 48 first-place votes and finished with 358 points while listed on all 100 ballots of the global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Mobley had 43 first-place votes and was listed on all but one ballot.

Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 35.4 minutes in 74 regular-season games for Toronto. The No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA draft led all rookies in minutes while ranking third in points and rebounds, and fifth in assists, steals and blocks. The former Florida State star was also named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in consecutive months to close the regular season.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he had “a lot of good things to say” about Barnes.

“On the court, he has been really versatile for us,” Nurse said. “He’s played both sides of the ball. Handles the ball. Rebounds the ball. Scores a bit. What we’re probably most pleased with is his scoring seems to be coming. It’s not his major asset right now, but there is not a ceiling there for him. Loves to hoop. He loves to play. That’s great.

“He kept getting better and physically stronger all year long.”

Said Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr.: “What makes Scottie special is he can really do everything on the floor. … He has the fight, drive and determination to want to be great. He wants to guard the best players. He wants to make a stand. He wants to win the game. He brings everything to the table.”

Barnes became the third Raptor, joining Damon Stoudamire (1996) and Vince Carter (1999), to win Rookie of the Year. Barnes became emotional after watching a video of Carter breaking the news to him, his teammates and coaching staff on April 22.

Looking back, Barnes wasn’t embarrassed about getting teary-eyed for an award he wanted dearly.

“There were a whole bunch of emotions,” Barnes said. “I was really just proud of myself for what I’ve been doing throughout the season. I really wanted this award. It was really a big goal of mine to get this award. And I already knew when I got it that I was going to be very emotional. … So, I wasn’t going to be shy about showing my emotion. I always show my emotion no matter what.”

Said Trent: “It showed you how bad he really wanted it. He really cared. If you have an opportunity to be Rookie of the Year, you might as well go for it. Go all-in. I’m happy that he got it. He talked all year about wanting to get it. He played his game, stayed the course and made it happen.”

In his Florida State bio, Barnes listed his mother, Kathalyn Wilkins, as “the person he looks up to the most because of all she has sacrificed for him to be who he is.” Just like her son, Wilkins was very emotional when she got the news from him that he was Rookie of the Year.

“I kept it a surprise from her,” Barnes said. “I already knew the day before, but I wanted her to watch the game to see it for herself, so I already told her, ‘Tune in, watch it.’ So, after I called her, showed her the trophy, she was on the phone crying. She always cries about everything really that happens to me. So that was really special to me. It really touched my heart how my mom and stepdad reacted. I did a call with my brother, and so they were all just really happy and excited for me.

“Everything I worked for is for family. Everybody’s just proud of me. My city was proud. Mom was superhappy. I put my dedication, passion into this game, I really love it, I have fun with [it] every single day. So that was just something really big.”

What also would be big is if Barnes and the Raptors can upset the fourth-seeded Sixers after dropping the first three games of the series.

“The key is really just keep doing what we are doing,” Barnes said. “We just win, worry about this next one. You know our crowd’s going to be there, our engine’s going to be there. So, Game 6 is going to be a big one. We have a great chance. Just keep taking it one game at a time. Not trying to oversee it.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.