"Winning games, the team is doing well, you individually are doing well -- you literally can’t ask for more over here,” says the 25-year-old forward from Maine, who came to Latvia after spending the last two seasons in Finland and Turkey.
BBL.net caught up with Barnies to talk about being named the January MVP, dunking over his teammate in the Latvian league All-Star dunk contest and what kind of a surprise he got for his 25th birthday.
First of all, congrats on the January MVP honors! You snatched up the individual award, Jekabpils went on to snatch a playoff spot – all in all, it's quite a nice stretch. How does it feel, when things are going so well?
To be completely honest, I haven’t felt any better in my three years as a professional ball player. I’ve been in the right position finally for myself. Playing small forward is where I needed to be to show my abilities and it’s worked out great for me so far! Add good teammates and coaches, that’s just asking for success. When things are going well overseas, you can ask any American ball player… you’re on cloud nine. Winning games, the team is doing well, you individually are doing well, you literally can’t ask for more over here. It’s all about staying consistent and keeping yourself happy. That’s the biggest part. I’m for sure all good!
It's definitely not your first individual achievement (i.e. Mr. Basketball in Maine), you were named for – which ones, both individual and team, do you hold the most dear?
Personally, the dearest award to me is being named Mr. Maine Basketball in 2007. I love my state so much and where I am from, and I am now in the history books to be a part of the greatest basketball players to ever come out of Maine and I couldn’t be more honored about it.
Jekabpils are through to the playoffs after a solid regular season. How far do you think you can go? Were there any specific goals set by the management or the coaches?
Our goal was to make the playoffs for sure, we have had a lot of close games that we felt we should have won but didn’t turn our way in the BBL, but that’s basketball. We are where we need to be and now it’s time to play even smarter come playoff time.
Talking about BBL, which team or player was the most difficult to play in the regular season?
I think to me, the most difficult team to play during the regular season in the BBL was probably Pyrinto. I played against them four times last year in the Finnish’s Top League and they knew who I was and so did I for them. They are a very experienced team and play very smart. Another reason why I love to get another opportunity at them in our own gym on Wednesday. Should be interesting, I love the level of competition. That’s all I want, to play the best and as of now… that is them.
You're from Maine and came to Latvia by way of Finland and Turkey. Were there any stand-out moments in your professional journey here in Europe?
I have been through so much in my last three years overseas. The most difficult for me was my year in Turkey. The biggest culture shock for myself. No one could really speak English and in that league at the time, only one American could play at a time on the court. Most teams had two Americans. So at most I would get to play 20 minutes and share time with another teammate. That was rough but I learned a lot that year. About the business side of things. My team went through four different Americans, cutting all but the last and leaving me in Turkey the one to keep my job throughout the year. It was hard at times, very hard… but I’m a better player and person now because of it.
As it so happens, you just celebrated your birthday on February 10th as well – did your receive anything special? Did your teammates not forget about it?
My team was very nice to me on my birthday! I got some small gifts from the club along with a shout out on the local radio station playing my favorite song for me! It was awesome to say the least, because it was unexpected. My club took care of me and made my day very special. I couldn’t ask for anything more, being overseas without family – it was nice!
You participated in the Latvian All-Star Day, both in the actual game and the slam dunk contest. What are your impressions from the event? Was it easy to convince your teammate Cam Rundles to allow you to jump over him in one of the dunks?
The All-Star day was fun! The game was all jokes and dunks putting a show on for the crowd, but the dunk contest was very competitive. These Latvian guys can jump, sheesh! The funny thing was, when I asked Cam if I could jump over him, he responded…”Lets go” with no hesitation. Talk about a teammate with so much trust in you. [Laughing] I did that dunk in a dunk contest in high school years ago and thought to bring it back for old time sake! It was fun! Glad I made it. That would have been embarrassing with a packed gym. [Laughs again]
We have noticed that you're pretty active on Twitter. Is that one of your go-to free time activities? What else do you do in Jekabpils, when you're not on the basketball court?
I love Twitter. Most of the time I like to think that I’m actually a pretty funny guy in person so I try to show that on the social network with my random thoughts and updates on my life. It’s one of my go to activities along with playing PS3. I’m a big Call of Duty guy. Keeps the hours rolling and my time used over here. I’m also a huge movie buff and have literally seen every movie that has come out already and then some. I repeat watched movies as well because I like to see if I missed anything through the first time watching. But that’s pretty much it, my town is very small and there isn’t much to do outside so I find ways to keep myself occupied for sure.
Probably the most important question – what is your favorite Latvian word?
Hmmm, favorite word in Latvian… well let’s keep this PG-13 and I’m going to say “briedis” which means “deer” in English. We have a teammate that reminds us of a deer the way he moves his body and I asked one of my other teammates how to say “deer” in Latvian. It’s a funny joke for us! [Laughter]
And lastly, what would you like to say to all Jekabpils fans before the playoff battles begin?
To the Jekabpils fans, we need you! The home games we have for the BBL are important to us more than anything because it’s our gym. We play in front of all of our fans and as much as they want us to win we need to them to support us through our way in the playoffs. It will only make us want it even more!