Julius Barnes is entering his third season of varsity basketball for Garner High School. He was a key contributor off of the bench as a freshman, and then took over the starting role at point guard last season, helping the Trojans win 22 games and a share of the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference championship.
Barnes averaged 12 points a game last season and a half-dozen assists, but knows Garner is probably going to be a better team with him dazzling fans with his passing ability more than his scoring.
He’s used to winning and understands veteran coach Eddie Gray’s philosophy on both ends of the court as well as anybody. Barnes talked with Sports Editor D. Clay Best about the season, which begins this week, what he expects from the team.
Q: What excites you about the team so far?
A: We’re young and fast and we’ve got some length. Our guards might not be as tall, but we can get a lot of steals on ‘D’ and get a lot of points off of our defense this year. They’re young guards too, so it makes you look forward to next year already, too.
Q: What have you tried to improve on this off-season?
A: My decision-making, trying to be more of a leader this season and making the people around me better other than scoring myself.
Q: What makes high school basketball different and special?
A: High school basketball, you’re playing for your school, the county. Everybody who lives around you, they come to see you play; the students want to see you play.
Q: What’s going to be different about this Garner basketball team?
A: We’re more athletic and we’ll be able to score from different positions. Last year, our main scorer was our two guard Demarcus (Sanford). I helped him out a little but we’ll have more people involved scoring.
Q: Do you feel like the veteran, try to be that veteran leader more?
A: It’s hard listening to a junior though because we still have seniors leading us but I try to provide leadership. I do feel like a veteran because I know all the plays and Coach Gray tells me to coach the guys up in practice sometimes.
Q: How do you view your scoring? Is your first goal to get the other guys going, then score if you need to?
A: I come second to scoring because the way our offense is. When I have the ball I have to look at everybody else first, then if I don’t see anything I’ll look to score or to Coach Gray to see what he wants to do.
Q: Is there anybody who is coming up to the varsity team this year or returning guys with new roles that have impressed you on the team?
A: There’s a lot. Jashuan (Smith), a sophomore, Nick Kuhns, a sophomore, Darius Simmons, a junior with me. And there’s a freshman (Thomas Allen) who’s playing well. There’s a lot. We just play well as a team.
Q: You were conference co-champions but didn’t win the conference tournament for the first time in a while. Does that motivate you?
A: Yes, it motivates us. You see some predictions and some people have us third but I think we can be first, so you think about it.
Q: Going back to the Holiday Invitational tournament, what’s special about that?
A: It’s my favorite time of the year. Everybody around Raleigh comes to that tournament, gives you a chance to showcase your team. That’s when the lights are on. When you get on the court you have to be ready with college coaches watching on such a big stage.
Q: Finish this sentence: The Garner High School boys basketball 2013-14 season is a success if ...
A: If we play hard, listen to our coach. We’ve got to work hard every day in practice because nobody’s giving us nothing this year. We’ve got to prove everybody wrong.