Jacksonville was in the middle of a recent East Coast Invitational team basketball camp game inside the Cardinals’ Bird Cage when senior Amaree Barber approached a teammate and offered a few encouraging words following a mistake.
Barber’s action didn’t stand out. He was subtle in quickly coming to his teammate’s aid and telling him to shake off the turnover before he turned his attention back on defense.
That is all part of being a senior for Barber, who has been one of the area’s better athletes in his three previous high school years.
“I know me being a leader and a senior, I can’t seem down,” he said. “I want my teammates to roll with me and I know there are some people who look up to me. So, I don’t just do this for me, I do all this for others.”
Barber is a two-time The Daily News All-Area Second-Team basketball player and last season was second-team all-area as a football defensive back. As a senior, he will be a four-year varsity basketball player, three as a starter, while this fall will mark his second full varsity football season.
Barber was elevated to varsity as a sophomore for the playoffs and even started in the 2021 NCHSAA East Regional final at J.H. Rose. As he looks back at his time at Jacksonville, Barber smiled when ask how quickly high school has been.
“Oh yeah, it gone by really fast,” he said. “My brother told me that high school goes by fast, and I really didn’t listen, but now I know that it is going by. Now, it is starting to hit me that I am a senior. I am like ‘Dang, this is my last year,’ so I know that I have to give everything my all.”
Barber also had to make a decision which sport he wanted to concentrate more on in an effort to land a college scholarship. While he has enjoyed playing both football and basketball since he was 6, the 17-year-old Barber said that basketball will be his meal ticket to play sports at the next level.
The recruiting process is still in the early stages for Barber.
“It has been going good and I am gotten some looks, but I am waiting for the offers,” he said.
In the meantime, Barber said he will continue to work hard in both sports, a lot of times this summer at the same time. He is not fazed by the juggling act.
“It is definitely a lot on the body, but I have a good stretch routine and I have started doing yoga,” Barber said. “I have a mindset that I will not quit. So, once I am done with one thing, it is time to go over to the next.”
Come this fall, Barber will be an experienced defensive back for the football team that went 7-5 last season and advanced to the third round.
In basketball, he is expected to elevate his game after he averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game to help Jacksonville go 15-9 overall, share a share of the Big Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference regular-season title, advance to the league’s tournament final and make the state playoffs.
Jacksonville basketball coach Sean Thompson believes Barber already has taken another step in his progression.
“Amaree’s offensive game has improved a lot and so has his decision-making. If I would have told him as a freshman to score 30 points, I am, not sure he would be able to do it, but he would try,” he said. “Now, he does have that ability. But the biggest thing is that when he starts having big games, people will key on him, but I know he will make the right play.”
Thompson added that Barber’s maturity and character has never been questioned and that his personal traits will allow him not to fold under the pressure of being a senior leader.
Barber admitted that he is “kind of nervous” being a senior, but he looks for his hard work to speak for itself on the football field and basketball court.
“There is a little bit of pressure to make sure I am playing well every game, and things will get hard,” Barber said. “But I know that if I keep doing what I am supposed to be doing and help my teammates, then we will be good. I feel like this is going to be a good year for football and basketball.”