Sacramento Kings

Harrison Barnes is helping kids in the sport. His travels took him to India ... and Iowa

Watch Kings’ Harrison Barnes speak to kids about failure

Sacramento Kings' Harrison Barnes spoke to kids about failure on May 11 , 2019.
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Sacramento Kings' Harrison Barnes spoke to kids about failure on May 11 , 2019.

The Kings’ season has been over for about a month, but that doesn’t mean the players are sitting doing nothing.

One who has been quite busy is Harrison Barnes. The forward has been working with young players who are learning about basketball and getting life skills that can be used on and off the court.

Barnes’ travels the past few weeks have taken him across the globe to India and back to his hometown of Ames, Iowa, where he helped his high school team win a state championship.

His goal on both trips has been to help youth participating the Jr. NBA Global Championship, a program that aims to teach game fundamentals, as well life skills and values that can be used in basketball and away from the game.

“The desire to play in the NBA or WNBA is great, but what are some life skills that you can have outside of the game of basketball?” Barnes said. “Teamwork, character, community, things like that. Those are the biggest things we’ve been trying to talk about.”

The talks Barnes has had with children aligns with what the league aims to do through the program which is geared toward 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls, said David Krichavsky, NBA senior vice president and head of youth development.

Last year the Jr. NBA – the official youth development program of the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League – hosted a championship tournament in Orlando where about 300 kids participated. The boys winners last year won the Central Regional in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where Barnes was in attendance. That team, from Overland Park, Kan., will be back at Walt Disney World this year to defend its title.

There are seven more regional tournaments taking place over the coming weeks. To reach this level, teams competed in local events that began in January. There were 14 NBA and WNBA teams to host, including the Kings.

This program isn’t just about basketball, though. Barnes spoke to children both in India and Iowa about how to apply what they’ve learned to everyday life.

“The biggest thing we talked about ... is embracing failure,” Barnes said. “It’s easy to say after a basketball game to say, ‘OK, we lost today. I can embrace that failure because tomorrow we have another game.’ But how do you do that in life? Maybe a test didn’t go well, maybe your college entry application was denied. Whatever it may be, using those same skills that you have on the basketball court and applying them to your life, along with work ethic, commitment and sacrifice, that’s what we talked about.”

The game has long been popular in the U.S., but Barnes was impressed with what he saw during his time in India with the players there.

“India was a phenomenal experience. It gave me a chance to see the game growing over there,” Barnes said. “Seeing the excitement of the kids who were there that were going to come to the States to play in Orlando and represent their country, that was a big thing. For the kids who didn’t make it, I just encouraged them to continue working and they could have the opportunity later.”

He added that the children there were attuned to what goes on in the NBA and spoke highly of the Kings, as well as other teams and individual players. That goes for the boys and girls.

To that point, Krichavsky said a major goal of the Jr. NBA Global Championship is to give girls equal opportunity as the boys get.

“It’s been a deliberate focus for us to make sure that there are an equal number of girls participating as boys and that they’re put on the exact same stage and get the same experience,” he said. “We’ve made a very strong commitment to ensure that’s the case as part of the Global Championship.”

While there’s been a focus toward the youth on his trips, Barnes has been able to have fun for himself as well.

“When I was India, it was my first time being there, so I had a chance to go around and see India Gate and Taj Mahal, and just experience the food and culture there,” he said.

His visit to the country comes months before the Kings will help represent the first North American sports league to play in India. Sacramento will face the Indiana Pacers in two preseason contests Oct. 4-5 at NSCI Dome in Mumbai.

Back in the U.S., Barnes’ visit to Iowa served as a homecoming. As a senior at Ames High School, he helped his team win the Boys State 4A Championship.

“I’m back in my hometown of Ames, so I’m seeing people who I grew up with, spending time with family and coming to Council Bluffs for the camp,” said Barnes, who added that his mother still lives in the area.

The event has been a valuable way to boost youth participation and interest in the sport, Krichavsky said.

“What we’ve seen is that the Jr. NBA Global Championship has created a high-profile, aspirational event that’s getting kids around the world really excited about playing basketball,” he said. “What they’re seeing now is an opportunity to play the game at a high level on a grand stage.”

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