COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes hails from a small high school in a small city in Iowa.
He’s royalty at Ames High School.
“Sometimes a coach will say there’s this one kid – they might not say his name because they don’t want you to think about it like that – but they’ll say how hardworking he was and how he was always in the gym,” Ames class of 2022 guard Tamin Lipsey said.
When the basketball coach starts talking this way, the team knows: He’s referencing Barnes.
Or maybe, he’s talking about Indiana Pacers guard Doug McDermott, a graduate of the same high school.
Iowa isn’t known as a hotbed for basketball stars, but two players at the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp in Colorado Springs last weekend hailed from the state: Lipsey and 2019 guard DJ Carton.
Carton is one of three in the class to be ranked by247 Sports.
“I feel like the basketball culture’s pretty good,” Carton said. “It’s slept on.”
Carton, who attends Bettendorf High School, has lived in Iowa for three years. He said some talent has been overlooked, including four-star Patrick McCaffery (Iowa commit), Jackson Molstead, Trey Hutcheson (Albany commit) and Ty Anderson and Cole Henry (Northern Iowa commits).
“I think there’s a lot of good players who know how to play basketball the right way,” Carton said.
He included himself, too: “I feel like I was overlooked at the beginning. I feel like I was better than some kids that were getting other interests.”
Not anymore. Now, he’s a five-star athlete committed to Ohio State.
Carton has lived in several cities. His family moved around a lot when he was younger because his dad played professional baseball, so he has lived in states such as North Carolina, Illinois and Iowa.
“The town treats me well,” he said. “They show a lot of respect and stuff, and I try to give back as much as I can. They show a lot of love and without all the support I’ve gotten from that city, I wouldn’t be here today.”
About three hours west, Ames, which sits almost directly in the middle of Iowa, has a similar feel.
“It’s not that different from any other state. It’s just smaller,” Lipsey said. “But there’s still a big basketball culture.”
While Iowa doesn’t have the claim to star power that some other states do – Carton even acknowledged that “there’s better talent in other states” — the impact of Iowans has reverberated throughout basketball.
Former NBA players such as Kirk Hinrich, Bob Hansen and Nick Collison started in Iowa.
Current coaches including Terry Stotts, Nick Nurse and Fred Hoiberg were also born in or grew up in the Hawkeye State.
And Iowa was the home to “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin, who set 12 Women’s Professional Basketball League records, once scored 83 points in a high school game, according to Sports Illustrated, and is known as a pioneer of women’s basketball.
Of course, for those at Ames High School, there’s Barnes.
“I just want to get to his level at the NBA,” Lipsey said. “During high school, I want to be just as good as him. Stand out.”
Perhaps someday, Carton and Lipsey will be added to the list.