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Minor league star Barnes finally gets NBA shot
August 10, 2014 04:16 PM | 6358 views | 4 4 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Jermaine Barnes bounced around the world like a basketball being labeled as nothing more than a mid-level star, he was crowned Minor League King by due to his great scoring ability over the years and called the best minor league player since Jamario Moon who never got a chance by SLAM Magazine.

But what if he got his shot? What if some team took a chance on a 30-year-old scoring machine? What if a kid from small-town, a kid who started in small countries worked his way to the top and finally had a chance?

“I never question God,” Barnes said. “Never. I didn’t get a chance because I wasn’t good enough. I was lower-level Europe. Now I’m older and better.”

No one knows much about Barnes, a native of Morrow, Georgia, except that he has been invited to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves with a non-guaranteed deal at stake. He’s been floating around overseas for seven seasons and caught the eye of NBA scouts in 2012 at the William Jones Cup in Taiwan. It resulted in him getting an invitation to a NBA workout for the first – and perhaps last – time.

“I didn’t know playing for a USA Select team in Asia would be seen by the NBA,” he said. “Luckily, I played great the game they watched. And I’m getting a chance.”

Timberwolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell knows a thing or two about guys like Barnes.

Mitchell carved out his 13-year NBA career the hard way. From a small college and the minor leagues as well so there’s a kinship between the two. He has done this in the past, identifying talent in the minors. In 2007, Mitchell signed Jamario Moon for three seasons when no one else could see his ability.

“This is a new NBA,” Mitchell said. “With the big contracts, teams look for guys like Barnes. He can defend and shoot the basketball. This is the only way JB could come close to making a team. He must do the little things.

“I want the kid to be successful,” Mitchell said. “He kind of reminds me of Moon as far as his road to get here. But I told him, ‘He better be read to play because the odds are against him.’”

Barnes’ story is one that could only be shown at the movies.

At Morrow High, he faced talent every night. Kwame Brown, Tony Douglas and Josh Powell were all in the region where Barnes was named First Team. He would later sign Division-I scholarship where academics played a major role. After two years of community college, Barnes finished at Point University, a small Division-III school with not one professional in its school history.

“Everyone at my school said I was crazy for saying I was a pro,” said Barnes. I just stayed focused and worked hard.”

Barnes would later be named National Player of the Year. He also led the country in scoring with 26.2 ppg and 19.8 versus Division-I competition. After an invite to L.A. for the summer league, Barnes signed his first pro contract. Barnes then played seven seasons in six other countries like Mexico, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Uruguay and Japan.

With all his experience nothing could compare to 2012. That summer Barnes was selected to play for Team USA in the Williams Jones Cup live on ESPN and FOX Sports. There he was surrounded by big time talent from the NBA, Europe and the NBA Developmental League.

On a team filled with talent Barnes found himself at the bottom on the talent pool.

"I felt that guys like Marcus Melvin, Jermaine Dearman, Keith Closs and Gerard Anderson were more talented than me,” Barnes said.

Was he ever wrong. In his debut game versus the home favorite Taiwan National Team, Barnes exploded for 18 points in just 16 minutes.

“There were guys on our team that have better bios than Barnes but he had something special I took a chance on and I was right,” head coach Travis McAvene said.

Barnes would help led Team USA JC to the championship game versus the Philippine National Team where yet again he came up big. He was later named to the All-Tournament Team, and was the team’s leader in assists. Team USA would fall one point short of a gold medal but it put Barnes on the map.

“After I left Taiwan, I started getting calls from everyone,” Barnes said. “I was hot and I felt I deserved to be on that level.”

Those very games caught the attention of a former NBA Coach of the Year (Mitchell won this award in 2007 while coaching the Toronto Raptors). Now the rest is history.

Does hard work pay off? Just ask Jermaine Barnes.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Boss Closs
September 06, 2014
I've had the pleasure of meeting JB several years ago, during a Pro Am & a tournament in Los Angeles. He's a seriously talented player who is very dedicated to improving his craft. An even better young man. JB's career path was by no mistake, because God doesn't make mistakes. His path allowed him the opportunity to prepare for this moment right here, right now. I'm proud of you, lil bro. Always have been. I'd also like to thank Coach Sam Mitchell for again giving another talented young man an opportunity to make their dream a reality. I'm cheering for you, JB! You're proof that perseverance pays off.

Juaquin Hawkins
September 02, 2014
This is really great to see! I experience this same situation playing 8 years in several countries before Scotty Brooks made a call to get me a tryout with the Houston Rockets in 2002. Made the team and wrote a book about it Became the oldest African American rookie in the league that season at 29 years old. But this guy is 30! All because some provided an opportunity. Hope there are more coaches out there like Sam Mitchell because I know there are more guys like Jermaine out there that are good, hungry and waiting for an opportunity. I really hope this guy makes it because it will show that age is nothing but a number and God is truly awesome!!! On behave of the other BARNES AND HAWKINS players out there, thanks for this article. Go get it J.B.!!!
J Cooper Jr
August 11, 2014
Hard Work definitely pays off! This is a great testimony for other aspiring athletes to hear. Regardless of how things pan out from this point for Jermaine, he is fulfilling God's purpose for his life on this earth. He has put in a lot of hard work and even reached back to help bring along others. He is a standup guy that I have a lot of respect for. May God continue to Bless him on his journey. Congrats on an opportunity well deserved! Stay humble and hungry homie!!
Tony Omotayo
August 10, 2014
That's big time. Hard work pays off. #UBA
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