Most athletes who have aspirations of playing in college have that ‘aha’ moment. It’s when they realize their love and talent for their particular sport can extend beyond just high school.
(Warren’s Payton Barnes. Photo by Jared Bakaysa of JB Graphics. See more of Bakaysa’s work here )
For Payton Barnes, that moment came right before high school. It’s led him to a stellar basketball career for the Warren Dragons and ultimately next year to the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
“I would say after my eighth-grade season, the summer before ninth grade is when I realized I loved the game and began making goals, making my ultimate goal to play college basketball,” he said.
In addition to playing for the Dragons, he’s excelled in AAU as well. Those opportunities allowed him to meet other players and coaches that have helped in the recruiting process. Of course, COVID-19 put a wrench in the past recruiting cycle, but Barnes made the best of it.
“The recruiting process was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed traveling around to different schools and playing at a bunch of different prospect games and camps,” Barnes said. “The relationships I was able to build with some of the coaches were pretty cool. Things did change of course with COVID so I wasn’t able to do much this past off-season and neither were the coaches as far as recruiting. I am thankful for the opportunities and choices I had as far as playing at the colleges I wanted, too.”
The process ultimately led him to Pitt-Bradford. For Barnes, it checked all the boxes of what he was looking for in a school and a basketball program.
“I wanted to go to a smaller school and be closer to home,” he said. “Pitt-Bradford wasn’t even on my list at first but when I had the opportunity to visit and meet with coach (Jesse) DeLoof I decided to check it out. Once I visited and got to know coach a little bit I was excited and it just felt right! Plus they have a great business program.”
DeLoof is the same man that helped turn around the Youngsville High School boys basketball program in just three short years. Before that, he was an assistant at Pitt-Bradford, a program he is now in charge of rebuilding.
“I didn’t know coach personally but my parents and I had always heard great things about him,” Barnes said. “And when I met him for the first time I could see why. I’m very excited to play for him and I know he’ll be able to help develop me into a great basketball player and person.”
DeLoof, of course, has a history in his still young time as a coach of player development, both serving under Britt Moore at Pitt-Bradford and as head coach of the Eagles.
That’s one of the things that drew Barnes to Pitt-Bradford.
“I want to continue to grow and become the best I possibly can and I feel coach DeLoof is great at developing players and bringing out the best in people,” Barnes said. “He went to school, played, and coached at Pitt-Bradford, so I feel his experience is very valuable. I really look forward to getting to know him more and playing for him.”
To say that Barnes is looking forward to competing and growing his game at the collegiate level might be an understatement.
“There is a lot that excites me about playing college basketball,” he said. “Some of them are being part of a team and building the bond and friendships with my teammates. Also, being able to compete at a high level and having the resources available 24/7 to help me develop into a great player.”
As Barnes alluded to, he plans to major in business.
“Business and leaning towards finance or management,” he noted. “I’ve always enjoyed math and helping people plus it’s what my dad does and he loves what he does. My goal is to find something that I can help people in some way and enjoy at the same time.
“I’m looking forward to playing basketball at the next level and being part of a team, growing, learning and taking the next steps in life.”
Barnes recently injured his shoulder in a win over Oil City and has to miss some time. He is hoping to get back this season to help the Dragons compete for a region and District-10 title.
“My main goals for my senior season are to be a good mentor for the younger players and to win a region title for Coach Berdine and compete for districts,” he said.