Barnes loving his life Down Under

South West Metro Pirates latest American import Kenny Barnes.
South West Metro Pirates latest American import Kenny Barnes. Inga Williams

LIFE as a basketball player can certainly toss you some curve balls.

One day you're living it up on America's west coast, the next you're on the other side of the world building a new life.

One day you're rubbing shoulders with your idol Kobe Bryant, the next you're looked up to by kids with marvelled eyes.

While there are plenty of perks being a pro sportsman in the basketball-mad city of Los Angeles, South West Metro Pirates' latest American import Kenny Barnes couldn't be happier where he is now living in Brisbane.

"I think Australia is a good country," he said.

"I can't believe how they are always behind me and welcomed me with open arms.

"Coming from America, I now feel Australia is my second home."

Following a successful college career, the Chicago Heights-born swingman was invited to participate in workouts with NBA clubs Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.

He was later drafted by the Lakers' Development-League affiliate in the D-Fenders.

Like an excited, young fan, Barnes used to listen in to conversations between legendary coach Phil Jackson and his star-studded Los Angeles Lakers, which included Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and arguably the greatest Laker Kobe Bryant.

"It was pretty sweet," he said.

"It was a thrill to meet those guys, but the big thing for me was that I wanted to get to the same level of those guys.

"Sitting next to Kobe and Phil Jackson really boosted my confidence, but you find out quick you have to have a high standard to play."

Barnes took advantage of practise time with the NBA powerhouse, but after one season decided on a career move.

Since moving from LA in August to be with his Australian girlfriend, Barnes has found a new lease on life and is doing his best to embrace Aussie culture.

"I now love meat pies," he revealed.

Determined to continue playing basketball, the 2m, 95kg small forward trialled with National Basketball League club Gold Coast Blaze late last year.

Despite knocking down a stunning 16 points in a pre-season game against the University of San Antonio, Barnes was overlooked by coach Joey Wright due to a logjam for the Blaze's import position.

Barnes refused to dwell on the setback.

And when an opportunity to play for the Pirates opened up, the 29-year-old jumped at the chance.

Barnes said he was fitting in the Pirates system well.

His energy, experience and exceptional skills could prove pivotal to South West's hopes of winning this year's Queensland Basketball League championship.

Barnes said entering the league as an import would only build pressure on him if he let it.

"A lot of people say an 'American import has got to do this and has to try to do that' but the best thing I can do is what is best for the team and work with the players on the court," Barnes, who still harbours dreams of playing in the NBA and NBL, said.

"If you train hard, play hard and are on same page as everyone else then you're able to win every game and win a championship."

Another thing driving Barnes is his other role with the association as a mentor for the Pirates' junior players in the south-west Brisbane area and organising youth skill clinics.

"To be here working with the kids the best part," he said.

"They ask me questions for hours and I try to answer as many of them because I think it's important to teach and motivate them.

"They are the future of basketball and I think every basketball player, not matter what league they play in should be trying to help kids so that they have the same chance to play as we did when we were young."

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