DCE Grad Named Division III Player of the Year
Sam Barber refused to let herself believe it would actually happen.
Even when she heard the words uttered Monday night, the former D.C. Everest athlete was unable to comprehend the magnitude of the accomplishment.
Barber was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Division III Player of the Year during a ceremony at a banquet held in conjunction with the Division I women's Final Four in New Orleans.
"Oh man, I don't know what to say, I am extremely shocked, I can't explain how shocked I am," said Barber, who was one of three finalists for the honor. "It really hasn't hit me. I legitimately can't believe it happened to me."
She has the player of the year trophy in her hands to make sure it's real.
The former D.C. Everest athlete just spent her senior season at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point team doing what has come so naturally throughout her basketball career.
Pulling up off the dribble and rising above the defender to knock down a short baseline jumper. Or using her quickness and athletic ability to get to the basket for a layup.
Barber, who had to be nudged by Pointers women's basketball coach Shirley Egner to move toward the stage, didn't see what the big deal was all about.
"I guess it's my personality. I feel like you have to work hard to get what you deserve. I have to credit my coaches and teammates for pushing me to be who I can be," Barber said. "I would never have come this far if not for them and my mom.
"I was very, very nervous in front of all these big-time coaches and players," Barber added. "When they called my name to go up there, I couldn't move."
Barber earned back-to-back Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year awards and led the Pointers to a 24-6 overall record. She scored 1,238 points in three seasons at UWSP, and finished her collegiate career with 1,329 total points.
Perhaps nothing about the elite company she was keeping hit her more than walking past Baylor phenom Brittany Griner on the way up to the stage.
The moment was surreal on so many levels for her.
"I'm really, really proud of her," Egner said. "She's so versatile, she can play in and play out. She's one of those few players who can consistently create her own shot. You just don't see that at many levels, especially Division III. She's the cream of the crop of kids."
Barber averaged a team-high 19.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds her senior season, helping the Pointers claim their sixth consecutive WIAC Tournament championship.
She joins former Mosinee athlete Amanda Nechuta, who won the national player of the year award in 2005, as the only Pointers to receive the honor.
Her coach knew UWSP was getting a special player when Barber transferred from Division II Winona State after one season prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.
"Sam is very passionate about the game of basketball and spends a lot of time in the gym," Egner said. "We're very fortunate to have two local kids who wanted to stay close to home and go on to be recognized as the Division III player of the year."
It was a weekend full of surprises for Barber, who was ecstatic to see her mom Carrie Jonas show up in New Orleans unannounced earlier Monday to see her daughter receive the award.
Now she'll have to get used to being referred to as the 2013 Division III Player of the Year whenever she's introduced to people in the future.
And now she has another reason to enjoy her stay in New Orleans even more.
"I'm the happiest girl ever," said Barber, who had to compose herself enough for a backstage interview. "I told them as a Division III athlete it's all about fun, heart and passion, not scholarships and money."
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