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Former LaFayette basketball standout Trevond Barnes comes back from knee injury, wins A-League Finals in Republic of Georgia

A little more than a year ago, Trevond Barnes didn’t know if he was going to play basketball again. Now, the former LaFayette standout is a champion, as Mega won the Republic of Georgia A-League Finals.

“It’s crazy. I feel like my life moves in circles,” Barnes said. “My first year in the pros, I was able to win a championship, just like in college. In my first year of high school, I went to a championship in my first year on the varsity. It’s very cool that I can say that I won a championship on every level. I’m always grateful for that. It’s something that I’m always going to remember with my basketball career.”

After graduating from Hampton University in May of 2019, Barnes signed with B.C. Beroe, a team in Bulgaria. Just eight days into his first professional season, Barnes tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus. Beroe negotiated a buyout and Barnes was back in the United States. The dream that he had sought since he was a kid had vanished.

In September, Barnes was nearing the completion of his ACL rehab when his agent approached him with an offer from Vera, a team in the superleague in Georgia.

“I didn’t know that I was going to have another opportunity with my injury on top of covid because I know there were guys that had good seasons last year that didn’t get a job this year without any injury concerns,” Barnes said. “ It was definitely God working for me.”

Originally thinking that his knee was ready to go, Barnes signed with Vera. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, his knee wasn’t fully ready.

“When I actually got out there and I started practicing, I realized I wasn’t [fully healed]. I had to see the doctors, and they told me that I wasn’t ready to go yet,” Barnes said. “I had to continue my rehab process for another two months. That itself was very frustrating, sitting out for so long.”

After returning from his second rehab stint, Barnes played a handful of games for Vera, but due to a coaching change, he found himself on a new team, moving from Vera to Mega, a team one level below.

“That itself was a blessing because I could have had nothing,” Barnes said.

Barnes, who had never really missed time due to injuries before tearing his knee, joined Mega and was diagnosed with COVID-19 a week later. Once he got over his bout with covid, Barnes played two weeks at a high level before injuring his ankle.

After missing a couple of games with the ankle, Barnes returned and helped lead Mega into the playoffs. As a rookie, Barnes averaged 12.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and one block per game. His 9.7 rebounds were the fourth-best in the league.

“My basketball career is kind of similar to who I am as a person. There are ups and downs but I always try to stay me through the whole thing,” Barnes said. “My college career, I had a lot of fun, but I never got the chance to be the player that I really wanted to be because I was playing in a guard-oriented system. My thing with playing overseas basketball is that I’ll be able to unlock my potential as a full complete basketball player. That was going to be the situation if I was healthy from the jump with my first team, but when I went to my second team, I honestly went back to a very similar situation. It’s just not productive for me as an individual. It was very tough, but we made it work. I was there for a reason and it worked out.”

Once getting into the playoffs, Barnes and Mega opened with Orbi in the first round of a best of three series.

Orbi defeated Mega in the first game before Mega stormed back to win the series in three games. In the championship series, Mega swept Caucasus in three games. Barnes went off the series, averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds a game. In game one, Barnes finished with 22 points, which is his career-high, and 11 rebounds. In game two, he followed up with 19 points and 16 rebounds, which is a career-high.

“The series prior [against Orbi] I had a tough matchup against a guy named Diago Quinn. He just had a big size advantage on me, so I made it my goal that I would focus on my defense and kept him off the boards,” Barnes said. “I had a favorable matchup in that second series, and I felt that no one could guard me. I got in foul trouble at the beginning of that game, but I had it in my mind to stay aggressive. I hit three out of four threes in that game. It was freeing. It reminded me of my high school championship then, I just felt free. I just went after it because I knew this was it and you never know when you’ll get another chance to win a championship or another chance to play basketball at this stage of my life.”

Barnes added to his rookie season when he was named to the All-Georgia A-League Second Team on Monday.

Alongside all the basketball problems, Barnes dealt with severe covid restrictions as a professional athlete and due to the fact that Georgia and the rest of Eastern Europe have been shut down for most of the pandemic.

“Things were shut down for the majority of the time. I would say from November to March 1, the restaurants and everything were closed and the whole time I was there, there was a 9 p.m. curfew,” Barnes said. “I couldn’t do anything but basically sit in the house and work out, which it’s good to work out, but it gets repetitive at times. It was definitely a mental struggle for everyone. I know all of our Americans, the four of us, were struggling with everything, being away from home and not being able to do anything. It was a grind getting through that.”

Barnes said he depended on his faith, his family and friends to get through the pandemic. He also stayed motivated because he knew that this season was an opportunity to get him to a level he wanted to be playing at and a country he wanted to be playing in.

Barnes is now back in the United States, taking some time off to fully recover from his ankle and knee injuries. After taking another week off, Barnes will begin to prepare for the next season, which he hopes will lead him to a career in Western Europe.

“I’m obviously going to take the deal that is best for me and my career. My preference is to play in a Western European country,” Barnes said. “I’ve been to Eastern Europe twice, and the living style is just not what I want, but I have to do what is best for me but be realistic.”