It’s such a great thrill to me, when I learn of something I’ve been totally oblivious to for so long – and it was right under my nose the whole time. Come on my people, momma – you’re a high school basketball historian!! Monte Towe, why did nobody inform me of the incredible man?!!
As you would expect, being from Kokomo and watching high school basketball teams from the North Central Conference roll in and out of Memorial Gym, I’d known of Kojak Fuller; standing at 5’7” he is one of the greatest small guards Indiana has ever seen out of Anderson High school. With the recognition he received, how could I not know of Kojak, his extraordinary ability and performances earned him Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1993. Being right around 8 years old when he graduated, I was plenty old enough to be a basketball fanatic by that point. Fuller known for his prolific scoring ability was expected to do great things, even having immense promise for the NBA. But well, the Lord had other plans for Kojak – and he is living life for God impacting the lives of young people wherever he goes through the game of basketball.
How could this one slip by me though? It took a lady I work with in Fairmount mentioning who he was, for me to hear his name for the first time – ever. Monte is from Converse, Indiana and attended Oak Hill High school and graduated in 1971, he’s a “Golden Eagle”. When the lady I worked with pulled him up on the internet, I was amazed by what I saw probably more because he’s just so close to where I’m from, and I had no idea. A contributing factor that could have played a role in me hearing very little about Monte, is the fact that he’s older. He was born in Marion, Indiana in 1953, that’s one year ahead of my beautiful mother, (who is not ashamed of her age btw lol) and if you’ve ever seen her, doesn’t look near the age of 63. Anyway, Towe also standing only 5’7” was such an excellent high school basketball player he was given the opportunity to play at North Carolina State for Norm Sloan. He played college ball for NC State from 1972-1975 and in his time there won the NCAA National Championship in 1974. Amongst some of Towe’s greatest honors, was earning All-ACC recognition and receiving the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the year’s best college player under 6 feet tall. In my mind probably the coolest thing about Towe is his connection to greatness. To me if it weren’t for Monte Towe throwing up the alley-oop pass for his teammate to drop in the bucket, a young North Carolina kid from Wilmington maybe wouldn’t have looked up to David Thompson as his biggest role model growing up. Michael Jordan was that young kid, and in 2009 when Michael was inducted into the Naismith Memorial basketball Hall of Fame, Thompson was there by his side the entire speech.
Towe went in the 4th round of the NBA draft in 1975 to the Atlanta Hawks, but played for the Denver Nuggets from 1975-1977. When his playing days were over he joined his old former coach Norm Sloan on the NC State coaching staff and stayed with him over ten years, even when Sloan went to Florida. Monte himself received the wonderful honor of being inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Monte Towe is just one of so many incredible stories of a small town kid, small in stature – with giant size heart. He as well as many others are living proof that no matter your circumstances growing up, or what size you are – you can do anything.
There are special people in this world that appear to go about their business as all others do – but produce differently. I thank God that He has favored me to have insight into the reasons why some things work the way they do; what is a clouded vision to many, is crystal clear to me. I appreciate that understanding, because it allows me to bring to light amazing people who have touched my life – and articulate why, they are amazing. Transparency is truly what sets us apart from one another. There is no greater component of change and inspiration than being relatable. The ability to open up not only for self – but to want to for someone else is an incredible quality to have. Some may think that being so open means you are at your weakest moment – but it is surely a way to find strength; and a way for others to find it with you.
Great leaders – they know how to change the environment in which they work, develop a culture that bears great fruit – because they know how to relate to those who work closely with them. Matt Moore, is as down to earth a basketball coach as you’ll ever meet; my experiences with “coach”, as I call him, are my own – so our views may be different and that’s ok. But the relationship that I’ve developed with him over the course of this past year, has truly been a blessing to me. A man who didn’t know me from Adam – wrapped his arms around me and welcomed me onto his coaching staff as if I was his own brother. I watched him keep a tightly knit group of gentlemen around him on his journey as head basketball coach at Kokomo High school. I seen how he took a group of young men with great potential, and some that were pretty rough around the edges – and helped them grow into men by the end of the season because he demanded greatness out of them; showed them that being a man is more about who you are off the basketball court, than who you are on the floor.
It did my heart good, to be a part of that environment – and he knew that. He granted me access to whatever I wanted as a coach, and allowed me to have a voice. I’m thankful that he seen something in me he knew would add value to the basketball program. Even more than him allowing me to be a part of Kokomo basketball, I am thankful for his friendship; In so many ways our home life matched up with one another. We both are married and had three kids at one time – he now has a fourth beautiful little baby girl, we worked to provide for our families and we love hoops. On several occasions we had the chance to talk, just he and I, and what I took away from those conversations with him was powerful. I found out more about who I was as a man because he allowed me to access who he was outside of being a brilliant basketball coach. I know I’m not the only person who has experienced this energy from him – but he makes you feel as if you are the only one that exists in that time with him. I know that personality resonated with everyone on the basketball staff, because I seen how that contagious mindset spread throughout an entire basketball organization. It gave us other coaches an unbelievable sense of freedom to do the exact same things he did for us, for others. We as coaches could help, and connect with our players in a way that maybe they’d never had before. What do you think that does for a young man? It breaks down walls, and barriers which possibly hinder them from being better basketball players – more importantly, better people.
Who we are as a coach of any sport and the success we have, first begins with who we are outside of the arena; and much, much more that involves being a selfless human being. Matt Moore is a great coach, because he is a great man! So, be sure that in whatever role you are currently fulfilling that you are either following selflessness, or leading selflessly. Thank you “coach” for your example.
I met a young lady a couple of days ago that I didn’t recognize, and that’s hard here in Kokomo, Indiana. I was introduced to her by a distinguished gentleman that I know from the facility I use for my basketball program – her parents were present as well. As he proceeded to tell them who I was and about my business there, I approached the young lady with my hand extended and introduced myself as JC Barnett. Right away I noticed how shy she was. Her mother standing just to the right of her, kind of gave her a nudge to have her tell me what her name was. I then asked her where she attended school and what grade she was in. Again, with another gentle nudge her mother encouraged her to tell me that she was in the 9th grade, and that she was a basketball player. Of course naturally I asked her, “so you’ll be going out for the basketball team this coming season?” She replies with, “I don’t know, I’m not sure yet.”
She was such a sweet girl and it was a pleasure meeting her.. . I don’t know what will come of that young lady, or what she will decide to do – but I remember as a 9th grader, having a desire to do everything. I know most people are not like me, or think as I do as far as sports are concerned – that’s ok. One thing I did mention to her before we parted ways that day, was to be involved in as much as you possibly can. Do as much as you can handle, because that’s what helps you to thrive as a human being. The more you can put your skills and abilities on display the more opportunity you give yourself to move into different avenues in life.
I credit in large part, hoops, as the reason I have my current job – because of an amazing man I met on the basketball court. Being a decent football player got me a partial scholarship to a Division 3 college, which helped put a dent in high tuition. Football also is a huge part of what helped me build the confidence to be a basketball coach. I had my first experience in coaching a PAL football team in 2005 and then in 2006 I helped coach wide receivers with Aaron Alexander at Kokokomo High school, under Wayne Lance. Running track is where I met coach Byrnes, one of the kindest, most down to earth individuals I’ve ever met – he would do anything to help me or anybody else.
Do it all!! It does not hurt you to be an active student athlete in today’s society – it only helps you to move forward in this world.
When I first met Eugene Carter, my first impression of him was that he reminded me so much of my grandfather; a kind and quiet gentleman. It’s been about a year now that I’ve known him, since I started using the facility I have for my basketball program – he’s been great, and such a gracious host to me and my students. Our relationship that started as just the occasional conversation here and there, I now make it a point to at least once a week sit down and have a nice chat with my good friend. Most times, sitting on the bleachers in a quiet basketball gym, we reminisce about the days we used to play hoops. I whip out my phone to show him footage of my playing days – and he of course looks at it with genuine interest. Eugene is from Newport, Kentucky – what us more northern Indiana folks would call the south, but it isn’t really too far; Newport is located just south of the Ohio, Kentucky border below Cincinnati. While I felt like I had a lot to share with him about hoops and the people I’ve played against, the more I started to listen to him speak about his experiences, I wanted to say less. That’s not a bad thing though – I’m more than happy to be quiet and listen to Eugene, he is truly a gem.
Standing at about 6’5”, Eugene is someone you look at and say – oh yeah, he was an athlete; he still has that feel about him. I learned that when he was growing up in the town of Newport, his family lived in as poor a situation as you could possibly imagine. With little to do and a basketball court just across the way from where he lived – he turned to hoops to keep himself occupied. On a dirt court, with rocks that seemed to place themselves wherever you wanted to bounce the ball – causing you to have to chase after it, Eugene developed his love for the game. The 8th grade was the first time he ever played organized ball, and as he puts it, “I was hard to handle! I had to play center, because I was taller than everybody else in my school – but most of the people I matched up against were taller than me. Boy could I leap though, I was already in the air while they were still winding up to jump. Allowed me to score and get a lot of rebounds.” It wasn’t long before he knew basketball was something that he was very good at, and could possibly be a way out of where he lived. He was absolutely right, over the course of his high school basketball career, Eugene posted numbers that would eventually place him into the Kentucky High school basketball Hall of Fame; Of course he had the opportunity to go on and play college ball too.
When Eugene speaks – there is a wealth of knowledge that flows, not of only about the game itself but of the people he has encountered. He says in a southern accent, “Cowens used to come by my house and wake me up in the morning to play ball”, and in my head I’m like, I know that last name but is that who he’s really talking about? So I say, “you mean, Dave Cowens?”, he says “oh yeah”. Later on he’s talking about something else and says, “that’s when Unseld and I started to get close”, and once again I ask out of curiosity, “Wes?”, he casually says, “Yes, uh huh”. As he continues to tell me story, after story about his experiences with even more basketball greats, I start to think – how many people in this world have done extraordinary things that hardly anyone knows about?
The most unassuming people have done some of the most amazing things in life – and have encountered extraordinary people. Often times we can be thrown by such humble spirits. They are the reason we should make every effort to be kind, and learn more about the people that enter into our lives – otherwise we would never know. They have something to share with us – and we have something to gain. We are more blessed by the wisdom of people like Eugene who are more than happy to share life stories with us; all we have to do is ask and we can walk away with something to apply to our own lives. So young people don’t ever be afraid to engage in conversation with someone you recognize as having a kind spirit. God has a way of putting us in a position to cross paths with someone that could tell us something that gives us a whole new perspective.
Everything we do has an effect on something else. If you smack a baby on the butt, that baby will surely start crying; if you put your hand on a hot stove, you most certainly will be burned. How do these things pertain to basketball? Let’s talk a little bit about defense.
Good hard, solid all around team defense is great for morale – means the play of everybody has been raised to another level, and is full of enthusiasm; it is essential to the success of the team. Let me give you a little perspective – truly, team defense is the effect. When everybody is playing as hard as they can on an individual level that is what binds everyone to create a solid defensive unit. The individuals are the cause of that.
What opportunities does that open up for you on the offensive end of the floor? When you play good solid defense, whether it be on the contest of a shot or stealing the basketball – it positions you to score much easier. When you force the offensive player to makes bad decisions, you or your teammate can make a play on the ball. In contesting every shot, I see opportunity in understanding who it is that has a better chance of rebounding the basketball and releasing down the floor. Being a smart defender presents a whole new world on the offensive end.
You as an individual have to make a decision on what kind of a player you wish to be. Will you choose to be someone who slacks on defense, and gets little opportunity to score the ball; and who doesn’t love to score? Or, will you be the kind of ball player that puts his heart into playing great defense – giving yourself chance after chance to score buckets? The choice is yours but, I hope you are putting the success of your team first and foremost. That starts with you.
The start of my 7th grade basketball season was an interesting one – honestly, other than having athleticism to carry me along I wasn’t that great of a basketball player. I tussled with my jump shot a lot – I really didn’t have a set way to shoot the ball. To make kind of a long story short, that’s when I started developing the form that you see me using in the picture. With the development of this new found skill I really started to gain recognition as a basketball player at my age level very quickly – and mainly because of my ability to put up points from the outside. This blog is less about how this form came about and more about my experience with it.
Ever since I started using this form I’ve noticed it’s done a tremendous amount for producing successful shots. Not only that, but because of where my release point is – it makes it extremely tough for a defender to block my shot, even though I’m standing at only 5’7”. When it came to playing at a higher level of competition, as I did in high school and in various men’s basketball leagues in the Kokomo area, it helped that I could already have the basketball high and ready to release quicker than anyone could contest it. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t take smart shots – of course I wouldn’t shoot in the face of a 6’4” defender.. . Maybe just over 6’1” or a 6’2” :), but you know what I mean – take smart shots.
For those of you younger students that are still finding their way with their shooting form, try this form out. Around the 7th or 8th grade is a good time to start using it because you are strong enough, trust me – the challenge will be how to incorporate more leg into your shot, that is a must. Take a look at the picture, from where the basketball is at that point in my form, all you have to do is get full extension of the elbow finish with a high release and hold the follow through. After giving it a try, please feel free to let me know what you think about it. Need more of an example on how to use this form, check me out on Instagram username: jcbarnett_jumpshooting or my Youtube page link: https://youtube.com/user/jclbarne.
One early mid-summer Saturday morning, birds chirping, the sun just beginning its daily climb into the sky and not a single cloud to disrupt its journey – I met a very good friend for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. It is not my intent to romanticize the meeting but, the experience was joyful, memorable to say the least, and long overdue. I’ve known Bobby Pettigrew since I was a very little boy – he played P.A.L. football for my dad on the F. O. P. Chargers back in the day; I watched him play football for Kokomo, and then he coached me all four years of football in high school. Held within the mental scrapbook of my memories over the years, from playing ‘Madden’ on PS2 after practices, to watching him be inducted into the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in track; our relationship even with interaction few and far between has always been one of brotherly love.
As we approached the podium to be seated by the hostess, I heard Bobby ask, “Is Jan working this morning?” Obviously a friend of Bobby’s I just figured he wanted to make sure he took care of this person by asking to be seated in their area. Aside from the fact that this individual was an employee of the establishment, we were the ones being taken care of – without question beyond the call of duty. Jan, a seasoned waitress, is as sweet as they come; she took care of us as we began to speak, chit chat and discuss our matters. Breakfast was an event that morning, we had laughs – Jan even fed Bobby a piece of toast, all in good fun. It was a great start to the day. Over the course of an hour, Bobby and I reminisced about everything! He brought up the time we got into a heated argument on the basketball court at the Sports Center; and told me the competitive relationship he and his best friend Frankie Young, another Howard County Sports Hall of Famer, have still to this day. We spoke about the love for our community and seeing positive things happening. Our love for Kokomo athletics and being a part of impacting the youth is a passion that we both share.
Ever since that day, my mind has been stuck on one subject that came up in particular. Bob, in reference to an old lost and forgotten dream, said these words, “Like you had mentioned one day on Facebook, it was a dream of yours to play basketball or any sport at Kokomo. These days it’s just like a normal thing for kids to wear the uniform; they take it for granted never realizing it can be taken away at any time. Coming up we had a sense of pride, we loved hearing that music as the players ran out. Thinking all day long about a rival game that Friday night. It meant everything to us, where has that spirit gone? Where did that dream go?” Honestly – where did it go? Listen, many of you have dreams that go way beyond high school sports, and I will never be the one to tell you that you can’t fulfill those dreams, but the dream has to start now! I strongly believe – the lack of a dream by our younger generation is a direct result of the diminishing of values, that was once instilled into the older generation as the fundamental keys to success. Go for every dream that you have – but, before you begin your journey let me send you with some perspective.
I’ll do this in the form of asking you some very important questions: For those of you with hoop dreams – are you making it to every single open gym? Because that’s what dedication looks like! Do you have a ride prepared, if not, you got your walking shoes on headed out the door early enough to be there on time? Because that’s what promptness is about! Are you giving maximum effort every play, every day? Because that’s how you gain opportunity! How are your grades, are you just barely passing or are you putting forth real effort in the classroom? Because that’s how you become trustworthy! How are you treating your mother and your father, are you mouthing off and being disrespectful or kind and polite? Because that attitude reflects in the relationship with your coach! Do you act as if you’ve made great plays before, or are you showboating after every made shot? Because your humbleness or lack thereof leaves a lasting impression on everybody! Important!.. . Very important! I am here to tell you all of these things play a role in your success. How you act at home, the way you treat people, the effort that you put forth – all carry over into everything that you do! Set yourself apart.
How are you? I know you don’t know who I am – I’m sure of that; and that’s ok. We are all likely at one time or another, to be unaware of the fact that we’ve been a source of inspiration for someone – and maybe for more than just one person. So, I’m letting you know how you’ve been that for me. I’ve done nothing extraordinary, I’m not famous or rich, or anything like that; beyond pursuing everything I’ve ever wanted and love and finding a little bit of success along the way – I’m only special because I’m a child of God. Maybe my story isn’t worthy of sharing why you mean so much to me, but if I cared – you miss your blessing; I’m not in that business being the reason people miss their blessing, I am blessed to be a blessing. So I must minimize my insecurities. My achievements small as they may be to someone else are huge to me – my life is full of the favor of God. I acknowledge that God created people like you with special gifts to hear stories about – causing people like me to open up and dig deep into my very own bag of gifts.
When my sister Eboni, whose last name was Butler at that time, went off to attend Purdue University – there was no way of knowing that that day would be one of many life changing moments for me. I was only 5 years old when she left; In moments of movie-esque style flash backs, I think often to a time I remember I was sitting in the bathtub – my sister Stefani was standing near the bathroom door curling her hair. With the vanity mirror being located just outside the bathroom, and multiple women within the household, it seemed that space was always occupied by someone. That day for reasons I really just can’t explain, I turned to my sister to ask in a small voice, “Does Eboni have a boyfriend?” She looks at me puzzled for a moment and replies, “Yeah ‘man’”. Using my nickname since I was a baby, “she does – she just met him!” I asked, “What’s his name?” She replied, “His name is Tony.”
Anthony Lenoir is one of the kindest, most brilliant individuals I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, anywhere!! When I think about our relationship, I realize I have known him literally as far back as I can remember. Most of my memories, vivid or vague, usually go back no further than the age of 5 or 6. When Eboni headed off to West Lafayette the summer of 1990, it wasn’t long after she arrived on campus that she met Tony at a party. Tony is an “Ice Cold Brotha, one of The Oldest & The Coldest, a Man of Distinction”, a member of the prestigious Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity; so it is without a doubt they were probably at a frat party. Of course there are two sides to every story – my sister can keep it pretty simple and tell you straight facts but, I like to be entertained; I prefer to hear a more interesting side, and Tony’s is all of that without question. As he tells it – he sees my sister from across the room standing up against the wall, and thinks that she is one of the finest women he has ever seen. He steps to her and makes one of the boldest statements I’ve ever heard, “You’re going to be my wife one day.” And says so with a smile. A bit confused she answers, “And how are you so sure about that!” he says, “I can just feel it!”
Seven years pass, and at the age of 12 years old I’m loving video games – and so does Tony!! We would play all the hottest games – Madden, college football, Mario Kart, track and field etc. In Tony’s transition from college to the workforce, there was a short period of time that he’d watch me during the summer months while my dad was at work. Outside of taking me to various basketball camps, there was a lot of time we spent together for he and I to just talk and chill. He schooled me on so much, he put me on game to so much hip hop music: Ice Cube, KRS-One, E-40, Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim – and the list goes on. He used to play hoops with me and my friends out in the driveway. We really did have a good time. One day while we were talking, I started to tell him about something that I wished I could do one day – it prompted him to start talking about you, Phillip. That was the first time I’d ever heard your name.
When Tony began to speak, even at my age I had a clear understanding of the impression you’d left on him. I’ll never forget the moment I began to refer to you as, “the guy who could do whatever he set his mind to”; because that’s exactly how he described you!! He said that the two of you played on a basketball team together, and mentioned that you could shoot the ball very well. One day you said out of nowhere, “Man, I want to shoot the ball from deep, I’m talking deep – I’m going to start lifting.” Tony said some months went by, and you had come back stroking the nets from just inside half court. As he was telling me this story, knowing my passion for hoops, he had my undivided attention. I’m sure he noticed my eyes were open wide; and all I was thinking was – wow I want to be like that!! Then he went on to talk about how easy school came for you and that you made the best grades with minimal effort – expressing how brilliant you are. That one day you decided you were going to learn to play the piano – and a year later, you were playing beautifully. I’ve never, ever forgotten the day he told me about you – and as fuel to my fire I’ve made him tell me about you several times since.
Who am I? My brother in law is your friend Tony LeNoir – and my life changed the day that I learned of you. Who are you to me? You are the earthly figure that receives much of the credit for giving me a new outlook on pursuing the desires of my heart, at a very young age. From the moment my brother, because that’s who he is to me – he’s more than just an in-law, told me about you – I can’t seem to shake this feeling that I’ve felt since. It’s the thought that – what if I just do it – if I just set my mind to it I can do it, I know I can!! As a result, I’ve made attempts at so much – and succeeded at much. For many who know me well, they know that many things that I do is not natural for me, and well outside of my comfort zone. There was a seed that was planted inside of me when I heard of the kind of tenacity in which you pursued whatever it is that you wanted. From that day on nothing was going to stop me. In the back of my mind you were always there, and I did the very best I could to emulate you.
Phillip Ekechi Nwokah, I have a story to tell because I choose to put my all into everything that I do. Although we’ve never met, and may never meet – I am thankful to you for being the example my heart chose lock on to.
JC Barnett III
What you’ve inspired:
Taught myself to draw
Taught myself to oil paint
Taught myself to do photography [at one time displaying all of my work inside of a local art gallery ‘Artworks in Kokomo’]
To make music completing nearly ten songs [inside of my own home studio]
To teach myself to play guitar [played publicly at an event for my employer]
To be a good football player [MVP of my high school football team, rushing for 9.3 yards per carry, received partial academic scholarship at a small D3 college]
To be a good basketball player [at one time top 10 in 3pt field goal shooting percentage in the state of Indiana, played against 4 future NBA stars (Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr, Josh McRoberts, Eric Gordon), getting the opportunity to coach high school basketball and the youth in my community]
To be a good student [my junior year of high school I made straight A’s one time – graduating with Academic Honors, received an IU degree in business]
To be a decent sprinter [winning sectional championship in the 100m as a sophomore, racing in the Regional meet against Leroy Dixon (look him up, pretty cool!!)]
To have my own business [JC Barnett School of Jump Shooting]
To write and be a columnist for a local newspaper [Kokomo Herald]
To pursue the woman of my dreams [my wife’s name is Brenda – we have 3 kids]