Will Barnes is a 26 year old 185cm point guard from Tuscaloosa, Alabama that is playing his second professional season and first with the Hamburg Towers. He started his basketball career in 2006 for Tennessee Tech (NCAA) where he played a total of 98 NCAA games. In 2012-2013 he played at Lee (NAIA) playing 34 games: 20.0ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 77.7%. Last season as a rookie he played for the Finke Baskets playing 29 games: Score-3(18.8ppg), 3.5rpg, 3.4apg, FGP: 64.3%, 3PT: 37.2%, FT: 75.8%. He spoke to German Hoops after the first home game of the Hamburg Towers defeating the Bayer Giants Leverkusen 74-64.
Will congrats to the 74-64 win against the Bayer Giants Leverkusen at home. What experience did you have after the game celebrating? I am sure you have way more options to enjoy a big win in Hamburg than in Paderborn?
Thanks Miles! It definitely was a great win for us. Our first home game was an experience that I will never forget. It was amazing to play in front of a sold out crowd. We celebrated by hanging it with fans at a restaurant that sponsors us, Mr. Kabob. They’re great people!
For months, the Hamburg Towers have been working on getting the arena done and it was ready for the first home game. Please explain the atmosphere in your new living room and how would you compare it to other settings that you have had in your career?
It’s great! It’s easily the nicest gym I’ve had to call my own. Everything is brand new and the area that surrounds the gym makes the experience even better. I am walking distance away. It’s just seems to all fight perfectly.
Hamburg controlled the game never really getting a huge lead in double figures, but just doing enough to always be leading. How perfect was this game in terms of lead management and just always having your nose in front and never letting Leverkusen to get the lead?
I wouldn’t describe it as perfect because it was a hard fought game. Leverkusen is a very dangerous team that has tons of shooters. I feel like we didn’t play our best basketball but played enough defense to maintain our lead the entire game. We have a lot of heart on this team and I feel more than anything, that will take us a long way.
The Bayer Giants Leverkusen was without their American point guard Willy Manigat. Did this take some pressure off Hamburg being able to just concentrate on their own game and getting that consistent offensive rhythm?
Yes, but that’s also a part of basketball. People get injured and players play banged up. Of course they are better with him but we just have to focus on what’s in front of us.
Hamburg wasn´t as consistent from the distance, registered only eight assists and had 15 turnovers, but won the rebounding duel. What would you say was the biggest strength of the Hamburg Towers in the home opener?
I would say our defense and energy. Just as you mentioned, this wasn’t our most efficient game so we had to do a lot of dirty work. The rebounding more than anything helps us control the game.
How difficult was it playing your first 4 games on the road. How did this period help the team mature and build chemistry as well as trust in each other early in the season?
The 4 game road stretch was definitely a big challenge that we handled quite well. Coach Hamed prepared us in the preseason by scheduled a lot of true road games. We were ready mentally for the challenge. It was just a matter of coming out and executing. The stretch helped our chemistry tremendously though. None of the four games were easy. Many times we had to face adversity and stick together as a team. We gained trust in one another.
You are the leading scorer on the team averaging 14,6ppg, grabbing 2,8rpg and dishing out 2,0apg. How happy have you been with your own performance?
I feel like I’m playing ok. I’m playing a lot better on the defense end and with more intensity. I haven’t been as efficient as I usually am but as long as we are winning I have no complaints. I love my teammates and truly want to see everyone succeed. Having our gym finally open will help a lot also. I now can hit up the gym whenever I like and put in the work like I’m used to. It was tough early on because we practiced in a different gym around Hamburg every day.
Before the season started you stated that you want to be a better leader in your second season than how you were with Paderborn. How have you changed your leadership ways or made them different than in Paderborn?
The biggest change I’ve made is to take everything one game at a time and focus all the way in on my opponent. I’m not worried about other teams, players, or my stats. It’s all about winning. I’m also trying my hardest to make that mindset contagious throughout our team. Seems to be working quite well so far but we still have a lot of work to do.
There is not one real superstar on the team, but it seems obvious the club has this we mentality instead of me mentality. How much of this early chemistry can be credited to head coach Hamed Attarbashi?
Almost all of it honestly. He trusts in every player’s ability and gives everyone fair opportunity. Our system also helps us spread the ball around and keep everyone involved. Our team’s willingness to play this way is huge also. Not once this season have players had attitudes or allowed selfishness to creep in. Things haven’t been perfect but we work & talk all of our disputes out.
Michael Wenzl has really turned into one of the German leaders averaging 11,4ppg and 9,4rpg. He has had Beko BBL experience and seems to be developing very nice as a center. In a team that concentrates on team, do you see the German expanding his role even more and becoming even more dominating as the season continues?
Yes, Big Mike is huge for us. When he’s on top of his game and controlling the boards, we elevate to another level as a team. Honestly, we don’t do a good enough job of feeding him the ball. We get caught up in playing too much of a penetrating game sometimes. But Mike is great. He is and will continue to be huge for us this year, no doubt.
When I see Bazoumana Kone penetrate it looks like Dennis Schroeder is in the house. What has been your impression of him in the first five games and what advice do you give him?
Bazou is like my little brother. We guard each other every practice and really compete at a high level. His defense and on the ball pressure has rubbed off on me and my team. He sets the tone and is a pest for every point guard that we play. His skill set at his young age is very impressive. I feel like the sky is the limit for him. He controls his own destiny.
The German PRO A has become more and more competitive each season. Currently there are two 5-0 teams and a few 4-1 teams. It looks like it will be another very exciting season. How proud are you in general how the team has played in the first five games. It is still early, but on what things does the team need to concentrate most on in the next games to keep their position near the top?
Of course we are happy we have been successful early but we feel like we haven’t even come close to reaching our potential. We’ve won a bunch of ugly games playing bad offensively; yet we still win. We just have to continue to focus in on our defense and watch film to make the necessary adjustments to continue with our early success.
Have Marvin Willoughby or Pascal Roller showed their basketball skills in a shoot around yet or have they kept on their working clothes? What do you appreciate most about your 2 bosses?
Haha, Marvin tends to shoot some shots and play one on one with the team sometimes! He’s more hands on with the team than Pascal is. Pascal handles more of the business side of things which keeps him in the office a lot. But they both have done a tremendous job of getting the club operating the way it is. They’ve been under tons of pressure and stress but they have handled it well! I personally have a good relationship with them both and love playing for them.
Alster lake, Reeperbahn or harbor. In what place have you been most to in Hamburg and why?
I’ve been to the Harbor the most. It’s such a beautiful place to go and relax. People are always out there, and it’s just a great vibe. I haven’t had the chance to visit the fish market on Sunday mornings but I will very soon.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
The last movie I watched was Sin City!
Thanks Will for the chat.