Feb. 21, 2001
Matt Barnes has been through it all. A highly touted recruit, high school All American and member of 1998's top-ranked recruiting class, Matt didn't expect what came. Quite simply, Barnes came to UCLA on the wings of success, prestige and expectation. However, for the past two years, he found himself fighting for playing time. Due to the depth at the forward position, Barnes looked on as former Bruins JaRon Rush and Jerome Moiso consumed most of the available playing time. He suffered through all this while watching former teammates and opponents excel at their respective colleges. It nearly drove him away from basketball. Instead, he stayed the course and now finds himself as one of the most explosive players on this year's squad. He's having the season, and the time, of his life. This is why Matt Barnes became a Bruin.
Why did you choose to attend UCLA?
It has always been a dream. Ever since I was little, I've always wanted to come here. Watching the great teams they had while I was growing up really made me want to come here. It was always a boyhood dream to play basketball for UCLA.
How did your experience last summer help you improve?
Just to see how they do it on another level expanded my game a lot. Playing with people that were better than me helped me to get better. I was able to learn a lot of new things and they taught me some tricks that I could incorporate into my style.
Who has influenced you the most in basketball?
My Dad. He never really played, but he always has something to help my game or he tells me what I'm doing wrong. He always says something to encourage me or help me improve.
How has the up-tempo offense and defense helped you to succeed this season?
It fits right into my game because I'm a bigger, taller player, but I'm pretty agile. I get to take more advantage of my athleticism in an up-tempo game. It also helps the entire team. We don't have any big guys slowing us down, so we can maintain an up-tempo game.
Who are your favorite opponents?
As far as teams, I always look forward to playing Stanford. Those games, especially when we play at Stanford, are always really big games. But, individually, I look forward to playing against Oregon's Bryan Bracey. I really enjoy that match-up.
What are your personal goals for this season?
I want the team to win the Pac-10 and do well in the tournament. As far as my personal goals, I'd like to earn some kind of Pac-10 honor.
What have you done differently this season to help you be successful?
I just worked really hard during the off-season. Last spring, I got on a weight program and ran a lot. I played a lot of basketball during the summer. I think that those things have helped my game out significantly.
What word best describes you?
What helped you to decide to forego football and stick with basketball?
Playing football has always been a dream. I've played football and basketball all my life. Football has always been something that I've wanted to do. But I decided that if I wanted to do well this season in basketball, I had to focus this summer on basketball and just watch football.
Who helped you stay upbeat about sticking it out after your first two seasons?
My family, my AAU coach, Darren Matsubar, and Ray Young. Ray and I went through a lot of the same things during those first two years, so we were able to help each other stick it out.
Would you consider yourself the breakout player of the season?
That's a tough question. We're getting a lot of contributions from different players on the team. I've really improved my game a lot this year. I think that I definitely have made a name for myself this season, but winning is a team effort and you can't do it alone.