WILLIAMSTON – Sy Barnett relished every moment of his junior year with the Williamston boys basketball team.
He didn’t log a single second.
Barnett transferred from Charlotte High School – where he was an all-conference performer – midway through his junior year and sat out the rest of the season due to Michigan High School Athletic Association rules.
Instead, Barnett got to see the other side of things. The only time he got to touch the ball was in practice. And he was designated to a cheerleader on the sideline as the Hornets made an unexpected run to the Class B state semifinals.
It was a different world than Barnett had been used to up until that point, but it was one that he cherished while in the moment.
“I actually enjoyed it,” Barnett said. “I would have enjoyed it even more if I was playing, but being on the team, that experience, it was the best I ever had.
“I took it as a leadership role. I know my leadership at Charlotte was being a playmaker, but I was never that “sit on the sideline and cheer for my teammates” guy because I was playing. I took on that role and it helped me become a better player and support my teammates from the bench.”
The senior is ready to make up for missed time, and he’s been preparing to help guide the Hornets (8-1, 4-0) back to the Breslin Center. Barnett is averaging 15 points per game so far this season and posted 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven steals in Friday’s 75-54 win over Fowlerville.
The year couldn’t have started soon enough for Barnett, who considered skipping the football season to focus solely on basketball. But he saw it as a good opportunity to continue to build relationships at the school he had only been attending for short of six months.
“I was super pumped for the season,” he said. “When I first came, everyone was super accepting. I kind of worked my way into the group last year. This, year, everyone knew everyone.”
Williamston interim head coach Tom Lewis said there was a transition period early in the season when Barnett was adjusting to finally playing with his teammates full time. Throw in his addition and the program trying to find its identity without all-time leading scorer Riley Lewis for the first time in four years, the journey began with some turbulence.
“He was trying to fit in,” Tom Lewis said. “He made a name for himself already, so I think he was trying to fit in and prove himself. He’s really done a nice job. He’s got toe be a little bit more vocal with the guys, but I know he’s only been here for a short time, so it’s a weird position for him.”
Barnett and junior guard Cole Kleiver, who scored a game-high 22 points Friday, have given Williamston a solid offensive one-two punch. Kleiver suspected that he and his new backcourt mate would fit well together after playing with him over the summer in game settings.
Now, it’s just a matter of continuing to develop everything necessary to make another memorable run.
“I knew what kind of player he was,” said Kleiver, the team’s leading scorer (17.1 ppg). “He’s another playmaker, scorer. If I’m not feeling my shot, he can step up and make some baskets. If he’s not feeling it, I can make some baskets. We feed off of each other.
“We want to find a new identity, find out what we need to do to win. We’re still finding it.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.