Beloved team manager and special education student buries buzzer-beater in only action of his career

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

Talk about making the best of your opportunity.

Promised playing time in one game when he was offered a team manager job following his varsity basketball tryout, Marcos de Niza (Tempe, Ariz.) High senior Dakota Barnes got his chance and buried a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for the only points of his career.

“He was so excited,” his mother, Denise Zuzu, explained in the USA Today feature. “It made him feel really good. He wasn’t bitter or disappointed he didn’t make the team. He felt like he could be a part of something that was really important to him.”

Born six weeks premature at just 4.5 pounds, the now 6-foot, 165-pound Barnes has a learning disability and attends special education classes at the school, the paper said.

When he tried out for the Marcos de Niza varsity basketball team this winter, head coach David Stark instead offered him a job as team manager. As a reward for delivering water to his teammates, filming practices and gathering basketballs all season, he could dress for one game -- against Yuma (Ariz.) High on Jan. 18.

Barnes had played in the Special Olympics and a YMCA league but never on this big a stage. But, sure enough, Stark made true on his promise, inserting his senior manager into the game with 1:49 remaining, according to the USA Today piece.

He turned the ball over and missed his first two 3-point attempts, but as the clock wound down on the blowout victory, a teammate found a patiently waiting Barnes in the corner, where he exhibited perfect form in draining a buzzer-beating triple for the 80-63 final.

“It was just one of those special, special moments in time that he’ll hold forever,” his mother told the paper.

Proof of his basket lives on Barnes' MaxPreps stats page: three points, two minutes and one made field goal. Although, it didn't take long for him to lobby for more playing time.

“It was pretty cool,” his coach told USA Today. “I told him, ‘You did a great job.’ He was like, ‘Coach, can I get in the Westwood game?’”

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