Barnes hails from just up the road in Ames and he honed his basketball skills on courts around central Iowa, including ones in Des Moines high schools, before moving on to one of the nation’s storied college programs at North Carolina. Following his sophomore year there he opted to enter the NBA draft and was selected by Golden State as the #7 pick in 2012.
Not all of the campers knew his background and pedigree but enough did that Barnes was swarmed during warmup shoot-arounds. He looked no different than most of the shooters – except that he’s 6’8” and didn’t wear a name tag. He was the one everybody was asking to pose for selfies and sign autographs.
Blue and white basketballs pelted the shiny, waxed hardwood like a thunderstorm of leather. Between the legs, behind the back, ankle-breaking crossovers; drive it to the hoop. Everybody wanted a piece of the champ. Some wanted to say they buried a jumper with his hand in their face. Others, like 11 year-old Haylee Smith, sought souvenirs like extra special camp t-shirts. On the front in block letters:
On the back his signature scribbled in black Sharpie.
Haylee’s transitioning from Windsor Elementary to Merrill Middle School. This summer she’s attending the 21CCLC summer center at Callanan. She knew who she was asking for his autograph.
“I’ve been playing basketball for four years,” she said, as if to prove her point. Haylee’s lanky and energetic. She looks to have the makings of a good post player.
The cohort from Meredith, almost 50 strong, got to pose for a group photo with the homecoming Warrior.
Jocelyn Appenzeller wore a cast on one arm. She broke three fingers on her right, dominant hand last week and was working on dribbling with her left hand. She’ll be a better player for it someday.
Tyler Rickets insisted he sank two baskets with Barnes trying to defend him.
Isiah Wade brought along his own “vintage” ball in hopes of getting it notarized by the big name on campus.
Dakota Davis wondered why Lebron was back in Cleveland, the heck with Harrison Barnes.
Barnes’ appearance at the camp was by arrangement between event sponsor Hy-Vee and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa. BGCCI extended the invitation to the nine 21CCLC summer sites and the acceptance rate was almost unanimous.
Eventually the camp settled into the drudgery of drills and calisthenics, the sort of stuff the headliner’s dreams were made of.
“When I was your ages,” Barnes told the throng around him when the balls had all stopped bouncing, “I went to lots of camps just like you guys to make myself a better player.”
It paid off. And Tuesday it paid forward.