Barnett's collegiate career coming to close
Published in Sports on February 25, 2004 1:55 PM
MOC Sports Information
MOUNT OLIVE -- Sean Barnett's senior season as a member of the Mount Olive College men's basketball team has been a season of firsts, such as the Trojans' first-ever national ranking, their first double-digit winning streak and even their first-ever national television appearance. Barnett hopes to cap his senior year with at least two more firsts: a conference title and an NCAA playoff berth.
Thursday night, Barnett will be among a group of senior basketball players to be honored during Mount Olive's men's and women's basketball games against Coker as the Trojans celebrate Senior Night. While Barnett is one of six seniors on the men's squad, the 6-foot-8 forward from Jacksonville is the only one to have begun his collegiate career at Mount Olive.
A double major in business administration and computer information systems, Barnett says he is interested in a career in the hospitality industry. Fulfilling the requirements of completing two majors, as well as a basketball practice and playing schedule, has taught Barnett a lot about time management. He credits members of his family and a certain basketball coach for teaching him to prioritize.
"I've had older brothers and Coach (Bill) Clingan to instill in me that I'm a student first and an athlete second," said Barnett. "You have to adjust your schedule to get classwork done when you have a game. You usually end up doing homework on the bus trips."
Barnett will graduate with a grade point average in the 3.0 range.
On the court, Barnett ranks third on the team in scoring with 9.4 points per contest. He has scored in double figures 11 times this season, including four times in his last five games. He posted his first double-double of the season two weeks ago against Limestone with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Barnett is quick to note that this year's success has been a complete team effort, as evidenced by the fact that the Trojans are averaging more than 80 points per game and yet have only one player averaging in double figures. Also noteworthy is that nine different players have won or shared game-high scoring honors this season and eight different players have reached the 20-point mark at least once this season.
Barnett says the team effort takes pressure off of himself and the other team members.
"I know that if I have an off-night, I have a lot of teammates that are capable of stepping up and doing a good job, just as we've done all season," said Barnett. "You don't even worry about because you know there's someone behind you that can pick up the slack."
Barnett attributes the team's success this season to a lot of work during the off-season.
"We did a lot of conditioning and working out after last season ended and in the preseason this year, said Barnett. "The national ranking we had is a tribute to how hard we worked." Mount Olive made its first-ever appearance in the national poll as the Trojans spent a week ranked No. 20 in the NABC/Division II Bulletin Men's Basketball Top 25.
Mount Olive has also been ranked in the NCAA Division II East Region Poll every week this season, including the first three weeks at No. 2. Mount Olive is currently No. 6.
Another reward for the team's off-season work is an opportunity to reach a milestone during Senior Night: a 20-win season. Mount Olive enters Thursday's game with a record of 19-6. This year's squad is also within range of the team record of 22 wins in a season, set in 1998-99. Barnett and his fellow seniors are part of the first-ever squad to record at least 18 wins in back-to-back seasons.
Barnett also credits another group for the team's success this year: the fans.
"The fan support has been really good," said Barnett. "It's really picked us up."
Mount Olive is 12-1 at College Hall this season.
Mount Olive is assured of hosting a quarterfinal-round game in next week's Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Tournament. The game will take place one week from tonight at 7 p.m. at College Hall. Mount Olive, which is currently in third place in the CVAC standings, will enter the tournament as either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
The winner of the CVAC Tournament earns an automatic berth into next month's NCAA II regional tournament. The Trojans could also qualify for an at-large bid if they remain ranked high enough in the region.
Barnett says he can't think of a better way to end his collegiate career than to win a conference championship and compete for an NCAA title.
"Our goal is to win a conference championship and go to the NCAA Tournament," said Barnett. "It would be a great compliment to us as a team and to the coaching staff for working hard and staying together."
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