Top NBA player from Iowa keeping faith center of his focus

Radical high school Christians are very rare among this culture and not of faint heart. Many of the youth identify as, “followers of Christ,” but this aspect of them doesn’t bleed into the rest of their lives. One of the biggest reasons that teens feel sidetracked and unfocused on their set of truths is the factor of time.

Getting sucked into time and the hustle bustle of things, especially long days at school, can leave people too busy to seek out God intentionally, or not enough stamina at the end of the day to even give it thought.

How do the radicals do it then? How do busy and stressed teens still find time to seek God and have the strength to live solely for him in every circumstance?

This question can be answered by none other than Harrison Barnes, NBA star player for the Dallas Mavericks.

Barnes is an outspoken Christian, and his seed of faith and commitment started when he was in middle school.

“I had always grown up in a Christian household, but when I went on a retreat in middle school, I heard a sermon from … Paul Sabino, and it really just changed my life. From that point on, it really threw me from having more of a passive relationship with Christ to an active relationship in which I try to seek Him daily in everything I do,” Barnes said.

“A lot of things changed for me since I accepted Christ into my life. I started getting more involved in my church. I’d read the Bible daily, and I even started a Bible study Wednesday mornings before class at my high school. Paul was actually the person who ended up baptizing me during my senior year of high school. It’s funny how it all came full circle.”

In that Christian household, Barnes had to grow up quicker than most, as there was no father in the picture.

“I grew up in a single parent household with just my mom, sister and I in Ames. I’m forever grateful to my mom for always providing a stable environment. Even though the money was tight, I never felt like I lacked anything. Without a father in our household, I feel like that increased my responsibilities in various ways, but I wouldn’t say that I was the actual father figure for my sister. I just did my best to be a role model and protect her in the ways that I knew how.”

Harrison grew up doing just that and faithfully was there for his family. Not long after those early years, Barnes would adopt a new hobby of basketball and get seriously good at it.

“Basketball became serious for me around middle school age. During that time, I started to really hone in on my skills. I began to have ambitions of playing in varsity and potentially on a collegiate level. I would spend countless hours in the gym just trying to get better at everything. Hoops became a huge part of my life, but academics was always first in our household. Later on I would see opportunities come.”

Those opportunities certainly did come. Barnes was ranked as the number one player in the class of 2010 by Scout.com, and in his junior year, he led Ames High School to the 4A state championship, his team undefeated. In his senior year, his team went 27-0, making Ames the first team to go undefeated consecutively.

Heading toward college, Barnes took five official college visits for his athletics, but he privately announced to Coach Roy Williams that he would be heading to North Carolina to become a Tar Heel. Through the seasons there, Barnes received the ACC Rookie of Year recognition and he scored the most points as a freshman in the ACC tournament (84 points) in history.

Nothing but success followed Barnes through college, ending with him in the NBA draft.

In 2012 Barnes joined with the Golden State Warriors. Through the Warriors, Barnes would win his first championship against the Cavaliers in 2015. Over that summer he would play on the Olympic USA basketball team, representing all of the big names, including his own. Currently playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Barnes attributes all of his success and all of his joy to one thing: the faith he has rooted in Christ Jesus.

Barnes referenced his early years in saying that, “I’m thankful for the foundation that I had in high school because the two years I had in college and the first couple years in the NBA were life-changing. I was thrust into a lot of different positions being away from home, adjusting to expectations and just being put in different environments. I had a lot of ups and downs personally and on the basketball court. I’m so thankful for God’s grace that He never left my side through all of it. I’ve definitely learned through experience that you make time for whatever you prioritize, so I’ve tried to make sure that my relationship with God reflects that. The NBA schedule is very difficult, yet I always try to start my mornings off with devotions and short Bible readings throughout the day so that I am constantly meditating on the word.” Barnes attributes his consistency to influences around him, and what he chooses to pour into his life.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by brothers and good influencers in Christ that encourage me, uplift me and keep me levelheaded. The closest influence and my accountability partner is my fiancé Brittany. I have my close friends, Justin Holiday and James Michael McAdoo, who talk to me on a daily basis about the grind of the NBA and trying to be a light in the league, and I’ve also been blessed with more experienced and seasoned influencers like Paul Sabino, Monty Williams and Pastor John Gray.”

Sabino shared a closing line on Barnes’ story and the relatability of it to any radical Christians life. “High school students who go all in for Jesus have the ability to change the world. You might think the majority of Harrison’s influence comes from his God given talent on the court, but you would be wrong. Harrison has fought to put Jesus first — from Bible reading, to evangelistic Bible study, to men’s accountability groups. He treasures Jesus above basketball, above his fiance and above anything else on his horizon. God is waiting to show His power and pleasure on any student who will decide, with Harrison, to follow Jesus with reckless abandon. Now is the time. God is calling. The world awaits your influence.”

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