Southland College Prep alum Tim Barnes striving to give back

Barnes, now a successful pro basketball player in Europe, has donated money to benefit mental health and given his time to help his alma mater.

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Tim Barnes wants to be a role model both on and off the court.

Courtesy of Tim Barnes

On the surface, Tim Barnes’ story is impressive.

Barnes, a 5-10 guard who didn’t make his eighth-grade basketball team, graduated from Richton Park’s Southland College Prep in 2016 and spent two years at Beloit College.

Upon leaving Beloit, Barnes played semipro ball for two seasons before jumping to Europe and eventually landing with Hamburg, Germany’s Lowen Braunschweig, where he recently was named the MVP of the Universal Basketball Union. Barnes has parlayed that success into workouts with NBA teams and hopes to one day play in the world’s best basketball league.

Barnes’ resume, however, doesn’t paint the full picture of his impact.

After winning the MVP award, Barnes donated $5,000 of his bonus to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Playing basketball, Barnes said, is different than traveling overseas. There are hours to burn, the food is unfamiliar and it can be difficult to reach family because of the time difference.

During free moments, Barnes reflected on how the doubts he faced as an undersized basketball player damaged his self-confidence and were detrimental when he was growing up. Though Barnes was able to fake it until he made it, he said he occasionally gets flashbacks to those times.

“A lot of people are unstable and don’t know it because they’re so busy, they never have time to really address the things that are goingon in their mind,” said Barnes, who is planning on returning to Lowen Braunschweig for the upcoming season. “For me, that was something I really had to address because I did have a lot of idle time to myself after practice and workouts and it was just me and myself and my teammates, but a lot of my teammates are from another country so they are doing their own thing. [It would be just] like me being in America, so they’re doing whatever they’re doing.

“It really just leaves you to your thoughts and that was something I really saw for the first time, like, man, in a lot of aspects I have a lot of things I need to work on with my character and how I view myself and how I think of myself.”

Barnes’ perspective also influences his work. He had a solid upbringing and doesn’t have to worry about his next meal, but he wants to bring more awareness to mental health because “a lot of people are going through things and they’re not able to bring it up to the public.”

“Any way that I can help people as a whole, I try to,” Barnes said. “It’s bigger than basketball, it’s bigger than sports. It’s just a life issue.”

Barnes’ efforts to help people aren’t limited to mental health.

The Matteson native has attended Southland’s summer basketball camp, lending time to any aspiring athlete who wants his advice and learndirectly from a pro. Two years ago, Barnes established an annual scholarship for a Southland student-athlete. And in 2021, Barnes purchased uniforms for the boys basketball team.

He’s done all of that because he credits his alma mater for giving hima platform to succeed both athletically and academically, and strives to be a basketball player students can use as a role model both on and off the court.

“I didn’t really have too many people to look up to that were in thecommunity,” Barnes said. “I looked up to NBA players —Derrick Rose,LeBron James, Steph Curry, people like that — so I vowed to make sure I changed that if I ever saw any success.”

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