The Central boys basketball team is nearing the end of its practice. Players are divided into separate groups to run sprints. When it’s Tyler Arens’ turn to run, it’s Jay’lin Barnes’ turn to rest. But Barnes isn’t content to just stand there.
Instead, Barnes shouts some encouragement for his fellow post player, telling Arens to beat the guards in his group and run a faster time in the sprints.
The duo will have an important working relationship for the Bearcats, who begin their season at 7:30 p.m. today in Muncie Fieldhouse against arch-rival Southside. It will be one of their final meetings in the series with the two schools scheduled to consolidate next year.
Barnes (6-foot-5) is a senior who averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last year. Arens (6-8), also a senior, sat out last season after transferring from Marion. He is a highly-touted player who participated in the IBCA/IHSAA boys top 100 showcase this summer. They have different playing styles, but will be expected to form a formidable duo in the post.
Arens said he hopes the duo can work well together. After watching Barnes play from the stands last season, Arens is eager to be able to help his teammate this year.
Asked if he and Barnes are better together than individually, he answers with a resounding yes. He hopes their presence together can be a key component of opponents’ scouting reports.
“I’m going to help him a lot,” Arens said. “Last year, he really didn’t have anybody else to help him out. He’s a great rebounder. If I get a double in the post, I can easily get a little dump-down to him and he can always finish. And he can do the same thing with me.”
Barnes and Arens were often in the weight room together this summer, Arens said. Sometimes, they were there as part of team workouts. Other times, it was simply individual workouts.
As is evident when Barnes wants Arens to outsprint the guards, they aim to push each other.
“In the preseason, we guarded each other, we made each other work hard,” Arens said. “I think it’s showed, and it will show when the season comes around.”
Central went 8-14 last season, losing to Hamilton Heights in a sectional championship game to end the year. The game against Southside tonight is one of two games against Delaware County rivals Central will play in the opening week of the season. It will play Saturday at Yorktown.
Coach Matt Fine said he’s seen Arens and Barnes working well together as the two post players prepare for the season. Barnes has started practice well, Fine said, and he’s also made himself more of a vocal presence on the team.
“They’re going to have to work well together for us to be successful this year,” Fine said. “We feel like on the interior, we should be a lot better than we’ve been last year, for sure.”