Saturday, September 24th, 2011 at 10:00 am  |  22 responses

The Journey of Jermaine Barnes

An under the radar minor league hoopster tells his story.

by Drey Wingate / @ProStatus85

As the NBA lockout continues to prolong, it’s looking like the coming months will be awkward for basketball fans. Every basketball player dreams about making it to the League one day. They put extra hours in the gym, spend more time studying film, they push themselves through injuries to make themselves more durable and they deal with the criticism and scrutiny of hearing they can’t excel at the next level. And along with all of the hard work comes the personal journey. Many players have made their mark at the college level, only to fall short of making their presence known in the NBA. Many take the overseas route, some head to minor leagues, and unfortunately, some are never heard from again. Making a name for yourself as a player does not necessarily mean you have to be on an NBA roster, it just means that you need to leave a lasting impression anytime you get the opportunity.

Minor league basketball is a tough market. Team owners talk a good game at first, then before you know it, the team folds up before the season even starts. Even more do not finish the season. This leaves a lot of hard-working athletes with less hope and more frustration. It is a fact that players have come up from the minor league level to have successful careers overseas, and also get contracts with NBA teams. It’s not impossible, but the fact remains it’s very hard to do.

Professional basketball player Jermaine Barnes, currently playing in the UBA (Universal Basketball Association), talked with SLAMonline about his experience in the minor league basketball system, why players are overlooked, and why the UBA is the best minor league in the country.

At 6-5, 210, Barnes is an outstanding scorer, very athletic and can finish above the rim. He has played in minor leagues around the country, as well as teams in Japan, Mexico, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia. In 2008 he tallied a career best 63 points while playing in the All-Japan in 2008.

SLAM: Minor league basketball has experienced more downs than ups over the years, what keeps you motivated to continue to work hard and try to make a name for yourself?

Jermaine Barnes: Well, most countries don’t respect US minor league basketball. I feel I’m the Jackie Robinson of US minor league basketball right now. I feel I have done it overseas and here. So they have to respect me and the UBA at this point.

SLAM: Why do you feel like minor league basketball players are so overlooked, if seen at all?

JB: I think minor league players are overlooked because for the past 10 years US minor leagues have been terrible, besides the NBA D-League. The leagues don’t push hard enough for the players, or the team folds. That’s why I respect the UBA. The league is all about the players and moving them on to the next level.

SLAM: Throughout your career overseas what has been your best experience?

JB: My best experience overseas was my first year out of Atlanta Christian. I was named the National Player of the Year but no one respected me. But then a guy by the name of Jerome Dodd gave me a chance in a Division 3 league in Japan. I only made $500 a month but it put Jermaine Barnes on the map. It really taught me how to be a man. So I would like to say thank you to Mr. Dodd for making me who I am.

SLAM: You have competed against some of the best players in the country, who is that one player that you believe made you work the hardest?

JB: I have seen a lot of great players from my experiences in Japan, Saudi, Uruguay, Mexico, the D-League and the UBA. I would have to say Mychal Kearse is the best. Kearse was my teammate in Japan and I haven’t had a better one yet. He has the ability to defend and score points. I respect him because our first day in practice we killed each other but he never backed down. He raised my level of play in the games and was the main reason for my 60-point game in the All-Japan tournament back in ‘08.

SLAM: You have won two championships in the UBA and you are also the reigning MVP, how does that compare to other accomplishments in your career?

JB: Winning those championships were great because the league is so competitive. Winning MVP is big because the league sends over 25 players overseas every year. That means I’m doing something right. I was also named USbasket.com All-United States guard of the year. To win that award over guys who are in the D-League was not only big for me, but also for the UBA as a professional basketball organization. The league itself was named the number one minor league in the country. It goes to show just how much talent is in our league. But I think the best honor was winning National Player of the Year in college. That was a rough period in my life and God pulled me through.

SLAM: Every great player has someone they molded they game after, who did you watch coming up and who do you watch now?

JB: When I was growing up it was all about Dominique Wilkins. I’m from Atlanta and he was our MJ. Now that I’m a grown man and have come into my own, of course I watch Kobe Bryant. His triple threat is awesome and I take a lot of his moves. I think Kobe is number two all-time behind Mike.

SLAM: A lot of players slip through the cracks and end up getting discovered late. Did you ever have any doubt about getting the recognition you wanted coming from a small school?

JB: Well I signed with the University of Tennessee when I graduated from Morrow High. So I always felt I would be an NBA player. But I didn’t take my books seriously so I slipped through the crack. But I’m very proud to have made it overseas from a DIII school. I feel that says a lot about my game. God made it hard for me so I would be grateful now. But I never doubted myself for one second. I knew I would be a professional basketball player ever since I was in seventh grade.

SLAM: What’s next for you?

JB: Well I haven’t been to Europe yet due to the birth of my daughter and business ventures. But now that she is older I think it’s time for me to take my show back on the road. This season I will play the first half of the season in the UBA, and then join Coach Ricky Benitez in Mexico. After that I will go to the NBA D-League or Europe for sure.

SLAM: What do want to be remembered for when your playing days are over?

JB: When I’m done playing this game I want people to remember me for giving back. Helping young players reach greater heights regardless of my own achievements. Jesus gave his whole life, so I figure who am I not to give back?

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  • Mike Allan

    Barnes is a great player. Needs to go back overseas

  • Will

    Barnes is a great player and what I respect the most about him is that he does not take credit for himself, he gives all the credit to God.

  • D-Block

    I see you! Good looking on this interview and the one with Tyrese Rice. Hard work pays off!

  • Patechia Hartmabn

    i think this is a testament that not only can you stay grounded and have a strong belief in yourself, but you can also have a strong faith with god! He is a great basketball player, but an even better person! This artice is awesome! I look forward to many more accomplishments by him!

  • Tink Davis

    I seen JB go from a NCAA3 player to a real overseas pro. That guy can play.

  • Hootie Hoo

    He didn’t play D3 at all by the way. He played in a Christian College league. He is a good player, but didn’t play D3, he is 6’3, not 6’5 and he never played in Saudi Arabia.

    Facts need to be straight about people. A lot of guys out there doing great stuff. He is one of them working hard to get stuff accomplished, so need need to stretch the truth and make him sound better.

  • Travis McNeal

    I agree that barnes isn’t 6-5, he’s more of 6-4. but what does that have to do with anything. All the kid said were good things. he spoke about God and helping. And you come on with that. I don’t care who the kid played against the numbers are the numbers. And yes we all agree that other people work hard but maybe not hard enough. It sounds to me like you have something personal. I feel if people have something to say leave your name like miss hartman. not hootie hoo. I coached against barnes at southeastern and we were a christian school. but barnes played d1, d2 and naia. try google. all i can say is barnes keep up the good work and this was well said mr. wingate. one of the best news letters i have seen. when ever your doing good work people hate you. just look at Jesus

  • mlk4life

    well there it is folks…you cant have success without there being some type of HATE!!! we just saw it first hand!! you have obviously been one of Barnes’ victims Hootie Hoo!! I have seen how hard Barnes works and how humble he has been with the success that he has gotten!! The kid is a true talent, the facts back that up! Keep doing what your doing JB!!!! and for the record, he’s definitely not 6’3 but that doesnt matter when you have bounce, so no need to even talk height

  • Jacob Hiler

    JB is a true baller. period. Guy can do it all.

  • http://www.tenndragons.com Coach Dolan (Tennessee Dragons)

    Very Nice Article by Mr.Wingate, Barnes is a true talent out there but not just a true talent but top of the line guy. This article was suppose to be about the Journey of one of the greatest US. Minor league players,most prolific scorer, and all around players in the countries and divisions he has played in ever. Barnes took it one step further making sure to mention God more than anything else and giving the league he currently plays in a lot of credit the (UBA) the top Minor League in the US. Barnes was also named to 2011 Eurobasket.com All United States (1st Team and Shooting Guard of the Year). Barnes has took it to another level their is no reason to hate. Barnes has done it the right way a lot of younger players should do it like he does it. Barnes went to play basketball but also look to build on life after basketball because he understands basketball does not last forever. Stop the hate and take some leasons from this young man.

  • Hootie Hoo

    I guess you guys didn’t read what i said…he is one of the guys working extremely hard to accomplish something. That’s why I am saying that there is no need to stretch the truth. He played NCCAA division 2, Not NCAA division 2, big difference…it is a Christian School league. He is a great player and did have success in a minor league in Japan. I think Barnes is doing a great job, but his resume is full of lies. Just tell the truth. You played JUCO ball, went D2, but couldn’t get eligible so you went to a small school just to play.

  • Hootie Hoo

    Coach Dolan…Take some lessons on how to spell

  • Hootie Hoo Killa

    Well it sounds like hating to me. I know Barnes and we played together in South America (Uruguay) and he avr. 30ppg. I was there. Yes he played in NCCAA but if you look it up he played all D1 and power house D2 and NAIA (watch the video). So I don’t care what school he went to. They don’t retire your jersey at schools when your avr. Mr. Dolan Im with you. This clown is a hater. I saw it the first time and let it pass but I see I must speak. It’s funny to me how people go out of their way to hate. But yet again what would the world be without them. And speaking od NCCAA, I’m in Romania now and the top scorer and rebounder played for Grace Bible college which is in the same league Barnes played in. I guess their lying on him also. smh

  • ATownBaller

    LMAO!!!!!Yeah that guy must know JB.lol. I agree fam is an ass but dude does have game. I know he played in four countries for sure. But again whats the point here. Dude said he wasn’t 6-5. Who is there right height. He’s 6-4. Again what’s the point. He went to a small school. So what. I never hear that dude talk about himself. Always pushing for others. You can’t hate on that. Let’s just say what it is. Either you don’t like him or he killed you. It’s one of them. I personally know dude because I play in the uBA. I know for a fact he helps every player get overseas. No one has to do that. So hell I’m with Dolan. I was one that use to hate because i didnt get it. I do now. I’ll be the first to say fam is a hooper and a good dude

  • Deigo Santigo

    I see Yermaine play with Universtartio in Salto. He is awesome. Many slam dunks and 3 point shots. The video posted I was in that game. crazy dunk man. Come back to Salto JB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • hoopsquad11

    Major hooper. period. Looking forward to playing you this season.

  • Basketlove

    One of the most excitin HS basketball players of all-time in GA. Rocky college career. Great senior year. rather ncaa3 or nccaa or naacp.lol. the kid played d1 schools. its on espn if you google him. played very well against big time comp. I saw youtube clips and again, you cant hate on someone who fought to make it. If you ask me he over achieved. being named USA guard of the year is an honor. but people are goingto hate. maybe we should all just look out for each other. i hate to say it, but its a black thing. and im black. never see others pulling eachother down the way we do. think about it. good job jermaine

  • Hootie Hoo

    Hootie Hoo Killa….You can be a great player from the NCCAA. No one said you can’t. The point is that in his story there are a ton of lies. If you played NCCAA, just say it. He didn’t play NCAA 2. I know he played overseas…I know that. I know him. No one has said he can’t hoop. He is a player for sure and knows the game. He has looked out for a lot of guys and I respect that…Just tell the truth.

  • gustavo pacheco

    I coach basketball in a small league in chihuahua, mex, im interested in inviting jermaine barnes to play for my team. Does anyone knows how can i contact him. My email is arikado7@hotmail.com. thanks

  • HoopKing

    Great ball player and better person. Keep killing Juice

  • ChrisDaDJ

    I want to see you in a Hawks uniform White Tiger aka the Green Mamba.

  • CaptainK

    Cuz got game. Talk alot but thats the game. I take my hat off. Way to kill fam