By Lee Davis
After leading Homewood to the state Class 6A basketball championship and being named Over the Mountain Player of the Year as a freshman, Hannah Barber could have been forgiven for wanting to spend a long, lazy summer hanging around swimming pools and beaches.
But anyone who thinks Barber actually did that doesn’t know her very well.
Instead, the rising sophomore spent most of July playing for the Alabama Heat Elite in high-profile AAU Tournaments in Orlando, Nashville, New Orleans and Augusta, Georgia.
Barber wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It was great,” she said during some rare down time last week. “There were a lot of college coaches there and plenty of terrific players from everywhere. It was an experience to see the talent from other parts of the South and the country, not just Alabama.”
Barber said the best benefit of the competition was developing more mental toughness.
“Our schedule was very intense,” she explained. “At one point we played 10 games in seven days. “It helped us push through fatigue and play our best even when we were tired.”
The presence of college coaches at the tournaments only added to the excitement, Barber said.
“Being watched in the stands isn’t anything to get rattled about,” she said. “If anything, it should add an extra burst and provide more motivation. But the main reason any of us were there was simply to become better players.”
To be so young, Barber and her skills at guard are already familiar to many coaches at the next level. She already has offers from the University of Alabama, the University of Southern Mississippi, Samford University and Jacksonville State. At least 10 other major schools from across the nation have expressed interest.
Although she won’t even graduate from high school until 2018, Barber is taking the commotion in stride.
“Sure, I’m going to enjoy the recruiting process. It’s flattering to be attracting some attention,” she said. “But once the high school season starts, Homewood is going to be the only team I’m thinking about.”
That’s a good thing. Barber understands that as defending state champions, the Lady Patriots will have a large target on their backs in 2015-16.
“At the beginning of last year, nobody expected much because we were such a young team,” Barber said. “But we got a taste of being the target when we reached the number one ranking in the polls. If we keep our focus on what we can control and not worry about the rest of it, we’ll be fine.”
And make no mistake, earning another blue trophy will be Homewood’s goal for next winter.
“Winning the state last year was a humbling experience in some ways,” she said. “It proved what we were capable of doing. Now we want to do it again and again and again.”
Barber sounded similar to a well-known football coach when describing her philosophy.
“There was a process to winning the state title: work to get better every day,” she said. “Now that is the goal every year. If we don’t win the state, it doesn’t mean our season was unsuccessful. But it does mean we didn’t reach our goal.”
As impressive as Barber was in 2014-15, she hopes her game will be even better in the new year.
“I’ve worked on getting my jump shot off – particularly from being the three-point circle – more quickly,” she said. “That will help when a taller girl is guarding me. Also, I want to improve my mid-range pull up shot. It’s kind of a lost art, since everybody wants to shoot the three pointer, but I want to get better at it.”
When not on the basketball court, Barber often finds her way into the weight room.
“I’ve been hitting the weights pretty hard to gain strength and explosiveness,” she said.
Barber admitted that she did get a little beach time in July. “We stayed in a good hotel in Orlando, so that was nice,” she said. “But mainly the trip was all about basketball.”
And that was fine with Hannah Barber. As she would be the first to say, one state championship isn’t enough.