(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
It’s easy to accept one’s place. Especially when the actual desire requires just enough effort to say, nah, I’m okay right here. Arizona State senior Bo Barnes could have said that. He could have warmed the cushioned seats on the sidelines and shown up just in case he was needed. Just in case, he could’ve said.
But the drive and passion and resolve that coursed through the veins of the 6-foot-4, 190-pound wing guard left no room for acceptance. And three years later, there would be a new science to study on the court: the evolution of Bo Barnes.
“I’ve learned here (at ASU) that if you stick with it and don’t give up, then hard work does pay off in the end,” Barnes said. “I think for me in my first couple years I didn’t get to play too much, but just staying the course and practicing and playing hard it just worked out. “
By “worked out” Barnes meant he saw his minutes skyrocket during his junior year. At the time, the starting five included a lot of talent: Jordan Bachynski, Jahii Carson, Jermaine Marshall, Jon Gilling, and Shaquielle McKissic. At the start of his junior season, coming off a redshirt year as a sophomore, Barnes averaged 8.7 minutes on the court. By the end of the season, Barnes averaged 19.6 minutes, playing roughly half the game.
But that spike in minutes didn’t come easily. Barnes would have to exercise a tenacious spirit, one that many who saw a quiet, reserved guy off the court didn’t know he possessed.
“I just try to give 100-percent effort when I’m out there and try to never leave anything on the court,” Barnes said. “Just because that’s how I like to play basketball: be the hardest worker and always giving the team whatever they need from me. I just try to keep the same mindset every time I go out there.”
Barnes’s love for basketball was cultivated from a young age. His father would take a 6-year-old Barnes to the park and teach him how to shoot and defend. The two would watch Bulls games together and his father would pass his own love for basketball onto his aspiring son.
“They were always taking me to AAU games and putting me in leagues growing up as a kid so I’ve been around basketball for a while,” Barnes said.
Barnes’s dad may have also had a hand in passing down the competitive genes. Jake Barnes is a long-time professional team roping champion and his son would support his dad just as he supported his son in basketball.
It was exactly this support and family mentality that drove Barnes to transfer to Arizona State after playing his freshman year for the University of Hawaii.
“I just missed home,” Barnes said. “My family only got to come out one time and then I didn’t get to come back at all for the whole year so I just missed being close to my family. “
But his year at the University of Hawaii didn’t go without success. Barnes appeared in every single game, one of only two players on the team to do so. He also broke the school record for three-pointers made by a freshman, with 57 on the season.
High School Days
Barnes attended Scottsdale Christian Academy for high school and made the varsity team as a freshman. Bob Fredericks, head coach of the basketball team, said that Barnes stood out in the sense that he was good enough to make varsity as a freshman, but not in the sense that he would become a key performer on a Pac-12 team.
“It was clear by sophomore year how important he’d become,” Fredericks said. “His work habit and resolve to improve and win were evident from day one. What I did know is that he had an inherent toughness about him that would essentially outwork everybody.”
Fredericks has been the head coach of the basketball team for 30 years. With generally 13 players on a varsity basketball roster, that means that Fredericks has coached 390 students.
Of those 390, one stands out in Fredericks’ mind.
“He would be in the top three or so players in effectiveness but even more so, the overriding thing is work ethic,” Fredericks said. “He probably has the best work ethic of any player I’ve ever had.”
Barnes went out in style in his last home game of his high school career. With half the team in foul trouble, Bo put the team on his shoulders and scored 36 points.
“He’s always been one of those special kind of kids,” Fredericks said. “Bo tried to will us to win that night.”
A Welcome Challenge
While Barnes has a natural shot and exerts dominance from beyond the arc, his favorite part of the game lies in the backcourt.
“I love when I get to guard the other team’s best player, Barnes said. “I think it’s like a challenge for me and it helps me get better as a player and I just love that challenge.”
ASU fans saw that this year as Barnes was called on to shoulder the load of Cal State’s Tyrone Wallace and Colorado’s Askia Booker.
Barnes made the decisions needed to put him in the best possible situation for college ball. Coming out of high school he had some Division 1 offers, American and Liberty among them, but decided to take a year at Westwind Prep to better prepare him before he committed to a D1 school and got buried on the bench. And even if Barnes was on the bench, it would only inspire him to fight a little bit harder, knowing that everything was part of a greater and intangible plan.
“Well faith is really important to me so I think just keeping God number one and just trusting that he has a plan for my life,” Barnes said. “That’s probably the best advice I’ve followed throughout my life.”
Farewell Wells Fargo
As senior night approaches, Barnes said he will miss playing in front of the fans that adorn the 942 section of Wells Fargo Arena each home game. However, the wing takes with him two astounding rival victories, in both Arizona games, and the friends he’s made with his teammates in the process.
“I’m thankful for the relationships I’ve built with the different players that have come through, and then obviously both times we played U of A and beat them at home,” Barnes said. “Those were two huge games and they were just something I’ll never forget.”
It was coincidentally at a U of A away game where former star center Jordan Bachynski said the coaching staff really found they had something special in Barnes.
“The guys on the team always knew that he had that potential and that he was a go-getter but I think everyone started to pay attention against Arizona,” Bachynski said. “He had a couple of huge shots against them and I believe we were at Arizona and we were missing Jermaine (Marshall) and needed someone to fill that spot and Bo stepped up like he always does and he defended and shot the ball really well. And even though we did lose, I think that was the moment when the coaching staff kind of was like ‘okay we have faith in him now.’”
Bachynski played with Barnes for two years and quickly came to find out the kind of basketball player that Barnes was and how essential his contribution to the team would be.
“My favorite thing about playing with Bo was just the intensity that he brought,” Bachynski said. “I mean it was just every play he went as hard as he could, just a blue-collar, hard-working kind of guy. He was our best defender and he was the guy who would be itching for the opportunity to go at their best player and shut him down.”
Bachynski led the Pac-12 in blocks his senior year and was dubbed Blockchynski after the game-winning block against Marquette in the 2013 season. For “Blockchynski” to say Barnes was his team’s best defender says a lot about a player who mainly came off the bench.
The former center said he saw a quiet, more reserved player his junior year turn to a leader his senior year. Bachynski said Barnes was the battery of his team, keeping them going whether it was a clutch three against U of A, or the frequent body-dedicating hustle that Barnes made from coast to coast on each inbound.
“I think the biggest thing with Bo is just his quiet confidence,” Bachynski said. “He was never intimidated by anyone, but he always remained humble. On the basketball court, you’re either giving energy or you’re taking energy and Bo was the kind of guy that gets on the floor and helps guys around him. Bo knows what he can do but he doesn’t have to tell everyone. He just goes out and does it.”
While Barnes hopes to continue playing for as long as he can, he realizes that it will take just as much drive as it did to get him to ASU today. However, it is that quiet confidence and mental agility that takes his competition by surprise. And there’s just one thing that inhibits Barnes from merely accepting his place. He likes the challenge too much.
“You only get this opportunity for a short period of time so I’ve tried to make the most of it,” Barnes said. “A lot of people could have easily given up and tried to transfer again, but I mean just staying with it and just believing in myself, I think that’s the biggest thing. And I’m happy with how it turned out.”
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