Men's Basketball: Comeback junior Barrett reaches new level
One year ago today, junior forward Will Barrett limped off the court with an injury that would keep him away from not only basketball for an entire year but from school as well. Doctors informed him he had fractured his navicular bone, located just above the big toe. Barrett's season was over, and his playing career was in jeopardy.
Less than 12 months later, Barrett hit a game-icing three-pointer to seal a 57-53 victory in the Tigers’ 2012-13 debut on Nov. 10. During his first game back from the injury, Barrett led all Princeton scorers with a career-best 20 points while also chipping in team highs of nine rebounds and three blocks. The performance came without a single turnover, as Barrett earned his first ever Ivy League Player of the Week award.
The best game of Barrett’s college career was no fluke. Since his injury, Barrett's points-per-game average has increased from 4.3 last year to 9.7 this season. He is shooting a career-best 43.6 percent from the field, and his three-point shooting has risen to a red-hot 50 percent in 20 attempts thus far, nearly doubling last year's rate.
2012 has by far been Barrett’s most impressive season to date, and the formula to his newfound success is nothing complicated: a year full of hard work.
After discussing the issue with his doctors, Barrett decided he would give himself the best chance at a full recovery by returning home for the next two semesters. In accordance with Ivy League rules, the decision would grant Barrett a rare fifth year of basketball eligibility, an opportunity the junior has cherished despite the unfortunate circumstances that engendered it.
“If someone would have told me that I would get to play college basketball at my dream school for five years, I would have told them they were crazy, but now that has come true,” he said.
As soon as he was healthy enough to walk, Barrett began working full-time for his father at Barrett Paving Company in Trenton. He squeezed in sessions before and after work with Princeton’s strength and conditioning coaches, driving in circles from his hometown of Hartsville, Pa., to Trenton, then Princeton and back home again.
Barrett says the hectic schedule gave him a deeper kind of restored appreciation for the sport he loves.
“Going from 10 to 12 hours of manual labor everyday to shooting and dribbling and smiling on a basketball court definitely made me realize what I wanted to do — and not do — for the rest of my life,” he said. “It was definitely the most tiring time of my life, but it was completely worth it.”
In addition to changing his perspective on the sport itself, Barrett’s return to basketball has altered the way he views his role on the Princeton squad. Barrett, who moved officially from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2014 following his year off, says that his coaches and teammates treat him like the senior he would currently be, had his injury proven less severe. The four-year veteran is eager to make up for lost time and join his former classmates as one of the team’s most experienced leaders.
“For every win, and especially every loss, more of the pressure to succeed is put on my shoulders,” he said. “That is a role that I am ready for and one that I need to embrace in order for the team to be successful."
With some time to reflect on his opportunities and another year of development under his belt, Barrett has used what most would call a setback to elevate his attitude and performance to unprecedented heights.
“My injury changed who I am as a basketball player and as a person, and I look at it as a blessing in disguise,” he said. “I plan on taking full advantage of it.”
The junior has done exactly that so far and still has two seasons to continue building upon that progress. Princeton has already learned what Ivy League defenders may soon discover: the kid is back.