Barker returns to the fold

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John Browne
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MUN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL Deer Lake guard adds experience to Sea-Hawks

Paula Barker thought she'd had enough basketball after four years with Memorial Sea-Hawks, but a renewed love of the game and missing her teammates has brought her back to the program.

Barker, a fifth-year student from Deer Lake, who is working on her masters in kinesiology, said she asked head coach Doug Partridge if he would take her back last week.

Paula Barker

Paula Barker thought she'd had enough basketball after four years with Memorial Sea-Hawks, but a renewed love of the game and missing her teammates has brought her back to the program.

Barker, a fifth-year student from Deer Lake, who is working on her masters in kinesiology, said she asked head coach Doug Partridge if he would take her back last week.

"He said he was willing, but he had to talk to his assistant coaches first so I was very excited when he said yes," said Barker.

The veteran guard gives the team much-needed experience and extra bench strength and adds another long-distance shooting option.

It was Barker's back-to-back three-pointers to start the game that helped propel the Sea-Hawks to a 64-61 win over Cape Breton University Capers in last year's Atlantic universities women's basketball final at Acadia University. Barker sank 15 treys last season and 17 the year before.

She made an auspicious AUS playoff debut with MUN in 2005 when she led the Sea-Hawks with 18 points in an 80-73 victory over the Capers in the championship game in Fredericton, N.B.

She was also the only Memorial rookie to lead the team in plus-minus (based on scoring for and against when a player is on the floor) in Partridge's first 13 years as MUN coach.

Now Partridge believes Barker is the final piece of the puzzle for this year's team.

"The only weakness we really exhibited," he said, "was a lack of experience on our bench and that has been handled (with the re-acquisition of Barker).

"We felt since we only had 11 roster players right now it was a perfect time to add a little more experience without costing anyone who is contributing."

Barker feels she may have been burned out because of the demands made on a varsity athlete.

"After the first four years, I really needed a break," said Barker. "I kinda forgot why I loved to play. I just needed to step away for awhile.

"I don't think I would have been a very positive influence on the team if I was there (at the start of the season)," she said.

"It's such a big commitment to play. There are a lot of things you have to give up and I didn't know if I wanted to do that. I wasn't 100 per cent into it, and I knew I shouldn't be playing."

However, shortly after the season started, Barker got the itch to return to action.

"I began to miss the games, especially when I saw the girls play. I'm still pretty close to most of the players, so they'd be talking about the team and I missed that. I found myself missing things I took for granted like being with the players and the competition aspect."

She said two weeks ago one of the players asked her to think about coming back.

"It wasn't until then that I actually considered it," Barker said. "When I mentioned it to a few of the older girls on the team, they were really supportive."

Barker, a solid offensive rebounder who was second in free throw percentage (34-43 .791) and had a 6.1 points-per game average last season, knows she has her work cut out before the Atlantic universities season resumes after the Christmas break.

She will travel with the Lady Hawks to a tournament in Montreal during the holiday break, but she doesn't expect to be ready to play when the Sea-Hawks open the new year against Cape Breton.

"Getting into basketball shape again is going to be a long process, but I feel like I'm ready to put the work in," she said.

"They (Lady Hawks) are at 6-0 and doing fine on their own. I'm just coming in to the team and willing to play any role Doug needs me to play."

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Sea-Hawks, Cape Breton University Capers, Acadia University

Geographic location: Deer Lake, Fredericton, Montreal Cape Breton

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