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ROBIN SHORT: Barker making lots of noise at MUN

Memorial Sea-Hawks third-year forward Nathan Barker has emerged a force in the Atlantic University Sport basketball conference, leading all players in scoring.
Memorial Sea-Hawks third-year forward Nathan Barker has emerged a force in the Atlantic University Sport basketball conference, leading all players in scoring. - Contributed

There’s really is no science or hidden secret.

Nathan Barker didn’t just wake up one day and find himself leading the Atlantic University Sport men’s basketball conference scoring race by accident.

It’s a process that’s been years in the making, not to mention untold hours of practice.

Pretty much the same way Carl English developed his game. Brad Gushue, too.

Not saying Barker’s turning pro tomorrow, or is off to the Olympic Games, but within his world at Memorial University and the AUS men’s basketball conference, Barker’s emerged as one of the best in the business. And it’s no fluke.

“It’s pretty much hard work,” said the 6-4, third-year forward from the Corner Brook area. “I try to get in the gym as much as I can, work hard in practice and then do the extra stuff on my own to make sure I’m ready for the next game.”

Entering the second-last weekend of the 2018-19 AUS season, Barker leads all scorers in the conference with an average of 22.2 points per game. His teammate, freshman Emanuel Ring of St. John’s, is third in the conference, by the way, with an average of 16.6 points.

Barker is an unheralded athlete, one of the most underrated in all of provincial sports.

There’s an argument to be made he is a top three athlete on the list of local all-stars.

Two weeks ago at St. Francis Xavier University, Barker had back-to-back games of 31 and 34 points. It’s the fourth and fifth time this season he’s dropped 30 or more in a game.

“If I can get in the gym for a half hour or 45 minutes, I can get 500 shots in,” he said. “I’ll try and do that every day.

“I love it. You have to love it, to put in that many hours. I imagine it’s hard to put hours in at something you don’t love doing.”

In between practices and playing, Barker still finds time to hit the weight room, even two or three times per week this time of year, crunch time as the post season beckons.

“The off-season is the most important time of the year to be in the weight room,” he said. “Get in there five or six times a week.”

As a high schooler at Corner Brook High, Barker was the best player on the province’s best team two years running.

In his first game as a Sea-Hawk, he scored 14 points against the University of Toronto.

Some, myself included, wondered aloud why Barker chose to attend Memorial, an AUS perennial loser.

Don’t look now, however, but there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The Sea-Hawks are still sub-.500, 6-10 entering a weekend series against Saint Mary’s in Halifax, but unlike the untold number of previous Memorial teams, this squad is actually in each of their games, and have won three of their last four entering weekend play.

It could get even better if Ring’s supremely-talented brother, Deng, plays for the Sea-Hawks next year. And speaking of next year, a 6-10 kid from New Brunswick has reportedly committed to the Sea-Hawks.

“There is definitely a better feeling around the team,” Barker said. “We’re right there, competing with every team. We know we can win because we have the right pieces.

“We’re going into every game expecting to win. Even against Saint Mary’s this weekend, and even though they’re undefeated (17-0), we know we have the pieces there to beat them.

“And that’s a good feeling after some tough years.”

Thanks, in large part, to Nathan Barker.

IN SHORT

Have always a felt little bad for the people around Memorial athletics. They’re trying their best, but the support they receive from the administration is nothing short of pathetic. It’s a joke, really. Credit to athletic director Karen Murphy for keeping it going in what I suspect can be some trying circumstances … If Carl English didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck this season. His year is probably done with hand surgery, and at 38, you have to wonder if he’s not going to call it a career … It’s obvious the local hockey fans have not taken to the ECHL as they did with the AHL during the early IceCaps days. In many respects, it’s much more entertaining. Fans will grumble they don’t know the players, and I get it. But at the same time, there was many a night I’d scroll through the AHL lineups scratching my head, with the exception of high draft picks, world junior guys and the rare veteran. What potentially could be the shot in the arm the Newfoundland Growlers need is a deep playoff run that will bring people into the building, and make the summertime season-ticket drive a little easier. A notable off-season signing or two wouldn’t go astray, either … Betcha the St. John’s Edge wished they’d kept Mo Jones now. Then again, Jones didn’t do himself any favours by sulking when Junior Cadougan started getting more playing time … One more thing about the Edge. The team plays 11 games in February, all but two on the road. Who came up with that schedule? … Strange not to be at the Canada Winter Games this time of year. I’ve been lucky enough to cover a dozen Games, starting in 1991 in P.E.I. That’s the year I headed over to the weightlifting venue to do a story on a Newfoundland lifter at practice. When I arrived, a guy was standing outside smoking a dart. It was him … Then there was Brandon, Man. in 1997, the year Carl English played for Newfoundland. Worst hotel ever. Not even close. Room was under a staircase, had one window about four feet by four feet, with a lovely view of a lumber yard. Shower curtain was too short, so the bathroom was routinely flooded. But this sums up the calibre of lodging: the hotel bar was the local strip joint … Geez, they’re all going one by one. Duey Fitzgerald. Dee Murphy. Snowy Carroll last week. I thought the world of Snowy, as did many. As I mentioned in a tweet, when you think of laughter and good times, “Cheers” was only a joke compared to Big Ben’s on a Saturday afternoon many years ago when Snowy was holding court from his seat in the corner … Today’s hockey player is much bigger, much faster and, frankly, much more skilled than the hockey player of the 1970s and ’80s. Not even close. But does bigger, faster, stronger and more skillful make for a better game to watch? That’s the greater debate …

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email robin.short@thetelegram.com   

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