Harrison Barnes humbled by Ames High gym dedication: NBA star enters school's Hall of Fame

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

Harrison Barnes couldn't believe the love that came his way Thursday night.

The current NBA star and former Ames High and North Carolina great was on hand for the dedication of the new Harrison Barnes Gymnasium and Court at Ames High School. He received countless thank-yous for helping make the state-of-the-art gym a reality.

“It’s a lot of love,” Barnes said. “To be able to come back here, see so many familiar faces, to be able to tell people thank you for allowing me to have success, embracing my family and continuing to support me.” 

Barnes wanted nothing but the best for the school that helped send him on the path to becoming an NBA great.

Former Ames High basketball player and NBA star Harrison Barnes speaks during the Ames High School's new Harrison Barnes Gymnasium and Court dedication ceremony at the school Thursday.

Barnes develops into a star at Ames

He started off as a skinny freshman not sure if he'd ever make the varsity and went on to lead Ames on a 53-game winning streak that included back-to-back undefeated state championships in 2009 and 2010. During his time as a Little Cyclone, Barnes surpassed the great Fred Hoiberg as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,787 points, made first-team all-state, earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors and was named Mr. Basketball in Iowa.

Barnes was a McDonald's All-American in high school and widely considered the top recruit in the country when he signed to play for Roy Williams at North Carolina in front of a packed Ames High Gym on Nov. 13, 2009. Barnes played two years at North Carolina, averaging 16.3 points and 5.6 rebounds, was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 2011 and earned second-team All-American honors in 2012.

Harrison Barnes is entering his 11th season in the NBA. The former Ames great currently plays for the Sacramento Kings.

Barnes enjoys pro and Olympic success 

Barnes was drafted seventh overall in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft by Golden State. He helped the Warriors win the NBA championship in 2015.

Barnes signed with the Dallas Mavericks before the 2016-17 season and averaged a career-best 19.2 points during his first season with the Mavericks. In 2018-19 he was traded to his current team, the Sacramento Kings.

Barnes was selected to the United States national men's basketball team in 2016. He helped Team USA win a gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

More:New Ames High gym named ‘Harrison Barnes Gymnasium and Court’

More:How does this year's Ames boys basketball squad compare to Harrison Barnes, Doug McDermott teams?

More:Ames volleyball gives Harrison Barnes Court a proper intro. Little Cyclones win opener.

Gratitude for support of Ames coaches, community

His journey to becoming one of the best basketball players in the world serves as an inspiration for young athletes in the Ames community, several of which were lined up to get Barnes' autograph following Thursday's ceremony.

“I didn’t even think I was going to make varsity my freshman year, let alone stay on the team when Coach (Vance) Downs would have us running up and downs,” Barnes said. “I’m just really fortunate to be in this position. Hopefully these kids here today will see they can do anything they want.” 

Tamin Lipsey is one of those young athletes looking to follow in Barnes' footsteps. Lipsey led Ames to the 2022 Class 4A state championship and is now a member of the Iowa State men's basketball team. He was on hand for Thursday's dedication.

“This is my first time in the new gym and Harrison is going to be here,” Lipsey said. “It’s just a cool moment to have him come back after all he’s done for Ames.”

After sending the old Ames High gym out with a championship Lipsey, loved his first look at the new state-of-the-art gym.

“It’s so open,” Lipsey said. “Everything is brand-new. New baskets, big logos and scoreboards. Everything is super-nice.” 

Barnes' input on the new facility

Former Ames athletic director Judge Johnston played a big role in Thursday's ceremony. He helped get the ball rolling on the new Ames High School about three years ago and was glad Barnes was there to provide his input on the new gym.

“As we got into the first phase of the design we knew we were going to have a nice gym,” Johnston said. “But Harrison wanted something special. We started talking with him and his family and what he would like to see. He talked about the NBA experience ... the video boards, the lighting and the sound systems, the NBA hoops with the play clocks. This is the Cadillac of gyms right now in Iowa and maybe the Midwest until somebody tops it.” 

Harrison Barnes led Ames to back-to-back Class 4A boys state basketball championships in 2009-10.

Johnston was along for the ride during Barnes' record-setting run at Ames and said no one is more deserving of receiving such a big reception after all Barnes has done for Ames High and the community.

“We’re talking about an amazing individual,” Johnston said. “Him and his family give back to so many organizations. They’re givers and it feels good.”

Downs echoed Johnston's feelings toward Barnes and what he has meant for Ames.

“The contributions of Harrison and his family — aesthetically it’s just wonderful,” Downs said. “Then the fact that it’s an Ames High guy giving back to Ames High just makes it really special.” 

They weren't the only ones to show their admiration for Barnes Thursday night.

Former Ames High basketball player and NBA star Harrison Barnes is congratulated by Ames mayor John Haila after a proclamation of "Harrison Barnes Day" during the Ames High School's new Harrison Barnes Gymnasium and Court dedication ceremony at the school Thursday.

'Harrison Barnes Day'

Several community and business leaders went on stage to thank Barnes for his contributions to the school and community over the years. Former teachers and coaches, including North Carolina's Williams and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, offered touching tributes on the video board in the gym.

Ames mayor John Haila declared Thursday "Harrison Barnes Day" in Ames. 

“It’s so much to digest,” Barnes said. “The people in the video saying thank you, the people that are here right now and who have supported me for years. It means a lot to know what you’re doing really matters. It’s nice to win some basketball games, but more importantly to hopefully have an impact on others." 

Former Ames High basketball player and NBA star Harrison Barnes signs an autograph during Ames High School's new Harrison Barnes Gymnasium and Court dedication ceremony at the school Thursday.

To top it off, current Ames AD Lyle Fedders announced that Barnes was officially being inducted into the Ames High Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I did not know (about) that,” Barnes said. “That was a pretty special addition to all of this.” 

Fedders said no one is more deserving.

Former Ames High basketball player and current NBA star Harrison Barnes speaks during the dedication ceremony for Ames' new Harrison Barnes Gymnasium and Court on Thursday.

“What an amazing guy,” Fedders said. “He continues to just pour his heart out for the Ames community. When you make it to a place where you’re able to help the community out, you want to go out and make your community better. He absolutely does that in a bunch of different ways.”