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Homeschooler grows 14 inches, takes up basketball, earns Division I scholarship

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

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Division I bound senior Jonathan Barnes only took up basketball as a sophomore -- Steve Nehf/Denver Post

Division I bound senior Jonathan Barnes only took up basketball as a sophomore -- Steve Nehf/Denver Post

Two years ago, Jonathan Barnes couldn't even make a layup, let alone dunk, and now he's a 6-foot-10, 250-pound beast headed to a Division I men's basketball program.

As a home-schooled freshman in 2010, Barnes stood just 5 feet, 8 inches, according to a fantastic feature by Denver Post prep guru Neil Devlin. By his sophomore year, he sprouted 11 inches and started shooting baskets at a local recreation center. That's where Parker (Colo.) Ponderosa High coach Mike Gibbs discovered his future starting center.

"I was big, but my footwork was atrocious," the 17-year-old Barnes told The Denver Post. "I didn't have confidence. I couldn't even make layups."

Even when he stood under 6 feet, Barnes always wanted to play basketball, but a series of serious illnesses to his family prevented him from taking up the sport in an organized fashion until that sophomore season, according to the feature.

"I wanted for the longest time to play, but my family is a really big extended family and we were going through some rough times," Barnes added. "Three years in a row, when I wanted to compete, my family needed me at home. It would have been too tough."

Barnes averaged 4.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in his first season for the Mustangs, but after another three inches of growth and countless hours in the gym, those numbers improved to 14.9 points and 9.5 boards as a 6-foot-10, 250-pound junior.

Soon enough, colleges came calling, and Barnes ultimately committed to Wyoming.

"Jonathan was a late bloomer to everyone, including himself," Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt said in a press release announcing Barnes' signing. "He started basketball late at Ponderosa High School and I give a great deal of credit to his coach Mike Gibbs, who believed in Jonathan's future. Kudos to Mike's ability to live with a process.

"All too many times people want something yesterday instead of working toward a process. Jonathan is a great example. Every time he stepped on the floor last year he got better and better. When Allen (Edwards) and I saw him last summer in Indianapolis against one of the top players in America, it was obvious he has the qualities to become a stopper inside and someone capable at both ends of the floor. At 6-10 and 250 pounds now and still growing, we feel he is someone we really needed to get to the next step in our process of being an annually competitive Mountain West team."

From 5-foot-8 freshman to paint protecting program savior in two short years. Not bad.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Prep Rally on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow Prep Rally on Twitter!