Ponderosa player comes up big in post
Wyoming-bound Barnes still learning the game
Every time Jonathan Barnes pulls down a rebound or wheels toward the basket his potential surfaces.
Barnes is the 6-foot-11 senior captain on the Ponderosa basketball team but he's a neophyte on the court.
He is playing in only his third year of competitive basketball but attracted interest from major colleges. He signed a letter of intent in November to continue his basketball education at the University of Wyoming and admits he was surprised that he drew the attention of college recruiters.
"It was very surprising," said Barnes. "It was very, very humbling to see that the hours the coaches had spent in the gym with me paid off. That means a lot to me. It means a lot to our program. It shows that if you work hard and listen to your coaches you have a chance as long as you keep your head down and don't look back.
Ponderosa coach Mike Gibbs met Barnes at a Parker gym.
"I was at a rec gym, working out, playing and I though he was in college," recalled Gibbs. "He was a homeschooled kid. He was homeschooling in Douglas County and he decided to play at Ponderosa.
"He came in green but we work weekly on his skill development so he can have more success on the court but he still has a long way to go. He's only in his third year of playing organized basketball and all things considered he has come a long way. He has his spells of going back to being green but he works hard and he doesn't quit. He is getting better daily. His basketball IQ and skills are rising."
Barnes grew 13 inches before his sophomore season and he is still growing.
"I'd always been bigger than everyone else, I really wanted to play but there was just stuff going on in my family," explained Barnes. "My family is really big in the ministry within our extended family and we had some sickness within our extended family. It would have been too difficult for me to compete in sports and also be home for my aunt who got sick.
"I started playing pickup at Lifetime Fitness down in Parker and met a bunch of guys. They said, `you've never played basketball?' I said `no I really hadn't'. They said, `you've got to go play high school basketball.' I was fortunate enough to meet coach Gibbs. And the rest is history."
The rest included a lot of hard work.
"It was hard at first," said Barnes. "The toughest thing for me was really becoming aggressive. Something I still have trouble with is being super aggressive. A lot of it is being such a big guy. I am actually kind of soft."
Barnes scored at a 14.9 clip and hit 65 percent of his field goal attempts as a junior. He averaged 9.5 rebounds a game. In five games this season, he is averaging 11.5 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots a game while shooting over 50 percent.
"My basketball skills are very rudimentary so I have to try to not do too much," admitted Barnes. "Being thrown in the game like this, with this being my third year playing varsity, playing at all, I pick up lot of different things all the time with the amount of time coach has spent with me.
"So just keeping the game simple, that's the biggest thing I have to learn. It seems super simple but when you have a chance to put up a jump shot instead of going to the basket, learning to be patient and seeing the opportunities, that's the biggest thing."
Some of the colleges that lined up to recruit Barnes included Pepperdine, Utah, Washington State, LaSalle, Belmont, Toledo, Wichita State and Northern Colorado.
"Jonathan was a late bloomer to everyone, including himself," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said in a news release. "He started basketball late at Ponderosa High School and I give a great deal of credit to his coach Mike Gibbs who believed in Jonathan's future.
"Every time he stepped on the floor last year he got better and better. When Allen (Edwards) and I saw him last summer in Indianapolis against one of the top players in America, it was obvious he has the qualities to become a stopper inside and someone capable at both ends of the floor."
Gibbs envisions a promising future for Barnes.
"His upside is huge," he said. "I'd like to see more aggression, realizing he is 6-11, 250 pounds so he can be more physical, more aggressive and be more of a presence. Also he needs to develop his outside game. We are working more on that in preparation for college next year. It's a work in progress but we want to make sure we get that stronger. He's a team captain, he's a good kid, he does a good job of keeping his teammates focused."
Barnes said his outside game needs to improve.
"I've worked on that a lot especially over the summer, just trying to see when it is advantageous to take inside shots versus outside shots," he said. "That's really going to be big in college.
"That is why I really have to be patient right now and take what I can get. Then as teams tend to push me out of the paint and put two or three guys on me, then I have to step out and take the jump shot."