Barker in US for next chapter
By CAM POTTER
A FAMILIAR face around Wangaratta Basketball is in the United States completing the next stage of his basketball journey.
Bright-born and raised, but Wangaratta Basketball junior Jalen Barker is about to begin his freshman season with Southeast Community College in Nebraska, USA.
The six foot two point guard has quite the resume on the court.
Barker played from under 12s to under 18s in the Wangaratta Warriors program, and combined this with playing for the Nunawading Spectres in the Victorian Junior Basketball League.
He was awarded the Keith Jenkins Award when he graduated the under 18 program at Nunawading.
Barker represented Victoria Country in the under 14s, 15s and under 16s and spent time with the North East Bushrangers in the Big V competition and suited up for ‘home’ CBL team Myrtleford in 2017-18.
He capped off his playing time at Nunawading by winning the youth league championship in the under 20s competition which he won days before he expected to begin his schooling in the United States.
Barker was also a member of the division one winning Rowville Secondary School basketball team.
To get to Southeast Community College on a basketball scholarship hasn’t been an easy process according to Michelle Barker.
“It really came down to who we know,” Michelle said.
“Les Stevens coached Jalen at Myrtleford and it just so happened that Les’ daughter, Monique, also went to Southeast so that was the foot in the door.
“Brodie Townsend from Mount Beauty is also a student at Southeast and that helped get Jalen in as well.
“We had sent videos to all the colleges and paid for a College Recruitment subscription but only received offers from division three colleges; which are not allowed to award sporting scholarships.
“We had to wait for the doors to be opened for us, but it was all worth it now.”
Michelle said Jalen has had to grow up quickly in the past couple of years which she said will be an advantage.
“Jalen lived by himself in Melbourne at 16, as well as boarding with a family, when he was at Rowville and playing for the Spectres,” she said.
“He’s only been over there for two months but I don’t think he will get homesick at all.
“He is finding the study load easy enough to manage; he’s enjoying it, he’s getting good marks but I wouldn’t class him as a scholar.”
Jalen is a pass-first point guard and has taken some time to develop his game to the American system with the coaches pushing him to take more shots.
“The practice matches are out of the way now and he’s worked his way to the back up point guard position,” Michelle said.
“He had to compete pretty hard with some of the other boys.
“I think the biggest thing was that he likes to set up the play for the others and get the right guys in the right positions.”
Michelle said Jalen doesn’t know what his plan is with Southeast Com- munity College, a feeder to the division one college, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
“He isn’t sure of his future; at the moment he is just enjoying being over there,” she said.
“He went over there without any expectations.
“It can happen with the transfer to the University of Nebraska, but I’m not sure if he is thinking the full four years (of college eligibility) or not.”
IMPRESSIVE: Jalen Barker in action for Nunawading.