BY KASEY KALER, SDA COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
As a freshman at the University of Hawaii in 2010, Bo Barnes seemed poised to take the men’s basketball team to the next level as he broke the freshman single-season record in three-point field goals made, but something was missing.
“It was a great year there, I played a lot and built up some confidence but being from a close-knit family it was hard only being able to see my parents once all year. And I never got to go home, so it was really hard to adjust to that,” Said Barnes, who will enter the 2014-15 season as a senior.
So when the opportunity to transfer came about during that offseason, Barnes and his family jumped at the opportunity, even if it meant sitting out 2011-12 season.
“I took the time to work on my game and got to work and grow alongside Jahii [Carson] and Evan [Gordon]. Those two really helped me and made me a better player in terms of confidence and leadership skills,” Barnes said.
However for Barnes’ family, particularly his mom, Toni, it was a dream come true to see Bo back in his hometown, calling the opportunity the “best scenario possible,” in an email.
“For us as a family, we knew it would be a long year for him mentally but at the same time, it was a year of constant excitement of what was around the corner,” Mrs. Barnes said. “We went to all the home games that year and became a part of the Sun Devil community. Bo definitely learned from it, grew from it and became a better player and person.”
Barnes admits that sitting out on the season was one of the most difficult things he had ever done at the time, but looking back he concedes it was one of the best decisions he made to be closer to his family and elevate his game to new levels.
Barnes tells that he became a different player during that time, playing alongside two eventual starters for the Sun Devils, the 6-4 guard worked exclusively on getting stronger and improving his ball handling skills.
Since his redshirt year, Barnes has embraced a role that not many other student-athletes would – becoming a sixth man and three-point shooting specialist for the Sun Devils, a reliable source for instant offense and low turnover rates.
“Whatever Coach [Sendek] wants, I’m happy to do it. Even in the NBA there are guys who are designated as the sixth man but they might get more playing time or be a star like a Manu Ginobili.”
It takes a special athlete to embrace a role of coming off the bench, something that both Bo and Toni attributed to Bo’s father, Jake Barnes – a professional rodeo champion.
“It’s definitely from his dad. Bo was practically born with a rope in his hand and could still pursue a roping career if he ever chose to. His dad [Jake] is one of the toughest, most determined athletes you will ever meet,” Toni said of her husband. “He’s still at the top of his game at 55 and Bo’s toughness is a reflection of that.”
For Coach Sendek and Barnes the hard work and overall toughness reared its head during the final 16 games last season when Bo averaged 19.6 minutes, shot .466 (34-73) from the floor, and was 41.7 percent (20-48) from three-point range.
“Seeing my dad and his work ethic all these years. It took a lot of hard work for him to become as great as he is. He really instilled in me at a young age that if I wanted to play basketball I had to put a lot of work into it. Having him set that example all these years has rubbed off on me,” Bo told of his seven-time world rodeo champion dad.
Now, with a final year as a Sun Devil, Barnes will get the chance to show all just how much he can contribute to the revamped Sun Devil squad by taking all his experience at Hawaii and now Arizona State and combining it with a tireless work ethic and knowledge from six different assistant coaches and several different teammates.
“I have had great relationships with all of my coaches in the past and have really tried to take something from all of them. Last year when I wasn’t playing much, Coach [Stan] Johnson pulled me aside and told me to keep hustling and playing with confidence and my time would come,” Barnes added. “But Coach Sendek is a great basketball mind and leader. To be able to constantly bring everyone together and make us all better speaks volumes to the type of coach he is.”
When the 2014-15 season begins, Barnes – one of three seniors – hopes to bring experience and leadership to a younger Sun Devil squad and help newcomers transition into the system.
“I was that new guy once and I know what it feels like. But there is nothing better than being back in my hometown and having the opportunity to play one more year, get my Master’s degree and then hopefully have my dream of playing in the NBA realized.”