To B-ball, or not to B-ball: Jamelle Barrett weighs his athletic options
University of Saskatchewan Huskies point guard Jamelle Barrett was the highest scoring varsity basketball player in Canada last year.
But he has football on his mind.
If scoring a league-high 600 points in the CIS last season wasn’t enough of an accomplishment, the 22-year old guard from Sacramento, Calif. now aspires to play Huskies football.
“[Football] is my favourite sport. It has always been my passion and number one love,” said Barrett.
Barrett grew up a football player, but after his grandmother passed away when he was in seventh grade, he chose to focus solely on basketball. His grandmother, who raised him, had always been an advocate of him playing basketball as opposed to football.
“She never wanted me to play football. She hated the fact that there was a higher risk of me getting injured playing football,” said Barrett. “When she died, it was a tribute that I would just pursue basketball more than football.”
Two days after her funeral Barrett had a high school football game. He didn’t go.
Since late July, Barrett has been practicing and training at Griffiths Stadium with members of the Huskies football team in hopes of locking down a receiver position.
However, on Aug. 18, Huskies basketball head coach Barry Rawlyk rejected Barrett’s bid to suit up with the football squad. Barrett had been under the impression that Huskies basketball had given him the go-ahead, but Rawlyk said nothing was ever set in stone.
“I never gave any green lights and I never gave any red lights,” said Rawlyk. “What I said to him was I appreciate his passion for wanting to do different things”¦ I can be an idealist when it comes to that, but the pragmatic side has to prevail. I know what’s practical and what’s real.”
Huskies football head coach Brian Towriss is confident that Barrett would emerge as a dominant component of the team’s aerial attack.
“Would he help us? Absolutely,” said Towriss, who met Barrett during one of his football coaching classes on campus last year. “He’s played the game at a level comparable to what we play. He certainly would be a difference-maker in our league. We would welcome him with open arms.”
Towriss knows Barrett’s speed on the court could be translated onto the football field, but he doesn’t want to interfere with the Huskies’ basketball schedule.
Rawlyk, too, is aware the damage Barrett could do on the football field, but “there’s only so many hours in the day.”
Playing one Huskies sport already provides enough distraction from the grind of academics. In Rawlyk’s mind, two sports could wreak havoc on Barrett’s grades, rendering the fourth year veteran ineligible to participate in any sport.
Rawlyk used to coach both basketball and football at Holy Cross High School, where he encouraged players to cross over. Nathan Schellenberg, the Dogs’ assistant coach, also has a football-basketball background.
However, Barrett’s scholarship and his status as the best-ranked player in Canada make him an exception.
Other Huskies have played both basketball and football in the past, including Chris Bodnar, currently a University of Regina Rams kicker who split his time between both sports at the U of S.
“We’ve had players in the past try to balance that and, to be honest, they haven’t done it very successfully,” said Rawlyk.
For now, Barrett’s commitment will continue to be with the basketball team. He might not be suiting up for the Huskies football squad against the University of Windsor Lancers on Aug. 26, but he’s still ready to take the CIS by storm — just in a different sport.
photo: Dorian Geiger
Correction: we had erroneously reported that Jamelle Barrett was the No. 1 ranked varsity basketball player in Canada. The article has been changed to accurately reflect Mr. Barrett’s status as the highest scoring varsity basketball player in Canada last year.