Former Edward Little High School star and professional basketball player Troy Barnies will host a free basketball clinic at “The Gully” courts off of Union Street in Auburn on Sunday, Aug. 12. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Troy Barnies surveyed the basketball courts below him, the site of his annual basketball clinic in his home city, and smiled.
“It’s great to be back on the old stomping grounds,” he said.
Barnies, the former Edward Little and University of Maine star, could just as easily be referring to any basketball court, let alone the neighborhood courts at Union Street Park, known as “The Gully.”
The 29-year-old, a seven-year veteran of international basketball, has had an eventful year since his last clinic at The Gully. Now he’s waiting until his left knee recovers completely from offseason surgery, to decide where the game will take him.
“I am a free agent right now,” said Barnies, who played in Hungary the past three years. “I can sign with a team in September or October. It’s no rush. I need to get right first.”
After battling through knee problems the past couple of seasons, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Barnies decided to undergo a procedure to repair cartilage defects in his left knee shortly after his most recent season ended in mid-May.
“It’s overuse,” Barnies said. “The last two years, my knee hasn’t felt 100 percent right. It wasn’t strong. I would go up to jump for a dunk or layup and my knee sometimes would feel weird. I would squat a little bit, to a breaking point, and my knee would just give out.”
Barnies, a forward, averaged 9.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for Atomeromu SE, which was swept in three games in its Hungarian (A) League playoffs. Since the ensuing procedure, known as mosaicplasty, he has had the knee drained twice, but hasn’t suffered any setbacks while rehabbing.
“I haven’t been able to do anything running and jumping-related in two months,” he said. “I still have maybe two or three more weeks where I can’t do anything, so I’m literally just lifting, on a bike for cardio and doing standing shooting stuff right now.”
Anyone who knows the indefatigable Barnies knows that’s not all he’s been up to this summer. He’s been to Europe twice to visit his new fiancee, a Norwegian med student who studies in Hungary. He’s had to skip his traditional appearance at Hoop Camp in Casco due to his knee, but he’s done clinics and given talks to basketball teams in Auburn and Gardiner, and has more lined up at Gould Academy and UMaine in the coming weeks.
Though he hopes to play professionally into his mid-30s, Barnies does plan to coach one day. So he relishes the opportunity to pass on his wisdom and experiences in settings like next Sunday’s clinic (11 a.m. on August 12 at The Gully).
“I love it because I feel like when I was a kid and hearing from people, I mean, you’d hear from coaches all of the time, but you like to hear from someone who’s been through it, someone that has gotten to a point,” he said.
“It’s pretty easy for me to talk about myself, to be honest,” he joked.
Part of his desire to coach comes from the man he calls his mentor, Edward Little coach Mike Adams. Barnies said he was overcome with emotion in February when Adams and the Red Eddies won their first state championship since 1946.
“I had some tears. No joke,” said Barnies, who stayed up until 5 a.m. watching the live stream from Hungary. “It meant a lot to me, only because I know how much it meant to Coach.”
“He’s a good person to every single person he meets,” he added. “You can’t say one bad thing about the dude. And I’m glad that I can call him my mentor. How many people have someone like that to look up to?”
Barnies hopes his other alma mater, Maine, will enjoy similar success soon. He said he is excited to go to Orono and meet with new men’s basketball (and former women’s basketball) coach Richard Barron.
The Black Bears have not finished over .500 since Barnies’ junior year (19-11).
“They’re going to turn over a new leaf, for sure,” Barnies said. “They’ve got a whole new coaching staff. The players they’re bringing in are solid. They’ve just got to produce a basketball culture there.”
Basketball culture will play a part in where Barnies decides to play next, in addition to salary, playing time and other factors. He said he enjoyed playing and living in Hungary, “but the basketball wasn’t really suited to my position. It’s more point guard- and center-heavy. I need to go to a different place, get more exposure.”
Despite coming off of knee surgery, Barnies plans to be selective in where he gets that exposure. He believes he’s built up enough of a portfolio playing in Hungary, Finland, Hungary and Turkey that teams know who he is and what he will offer them.
He said plenty of teams have already expressed interest for next season, but he doesn’t expect to pick one until he knows he’s at 100 percent, physically.
“I don’t like going overseas to a team and being out of shape,” he said. “I’m always in shape, ready to go, game ready. I need to make sure I’m there before I can even go out to wherever.”
“But I will go back,” he added. “I’m not done yet, by any means. But I just don’t know where yet.”