Barber signs at DSCC
Shamaudre Barber's first experiences with the game of basketball were tough.
From the age of 3 all the way up to high school, Barber and his father played one-on-one games in the alley behind their house, and dad was relentless.
"He would always let me get to the last few points, I'd get really close, but he never let me win," Barber said. "He would always say, 'he'll never get anything out of it if I let him win.'"
Those words and the bond he shares with his family always stuck with him, even as he grew taller, got stronger and proved he could pull off the seemingly impossible feat of beating his dad.
"It finally happened in high school and after that, when he came to my games I made sure I did well," Barber said. "He stays like 500 miles away and still comes to see me, so I make sure there's something special when he comes."
Now Jamie Rodgers and Michael Barber, Shamaudre's parents, will travel whatever distance it takes to watch their son suit up for Dyersburg State in Tennessee next winter. The Malden graduate signed his National Letter of Intent with the Eagles last week.
"It's amazing, like, I didn't believe it at first. I never got calls back from the couple other schools I tried out for and people were telling me I was underrated in Missouri," Barber said. "I thought after high school it would pretty much be over."
The one callback he did get was from 20-year Dyersburg State head coach Alan Barnett.
Barnett, who started his collegiate career in Southeast Missouri from his playing days under Gene Bess at Three Rivers College to his time as an assistant at Southeast Missouri State University in the 1980s, gave Barber a tryout last month.
"At first it started out kind of shaky. We were doing mainly passing drills and my first pass was down at his ankles," Barber said.
Barber's struggles with shooting and passing continued through the first two games of his tryout before a call from Rodgers changed his mindset.
"Right after that, I swear, shots started falling," Barber said. "One right after the next, after the next. One of the guys on the team stopped me and said, 'keep knocking down shots and I'm going to keep passing you the ball.'"
Barber found a groove, made good with new teammates and it wasn't just because of one coincidental call with his mom. She's been a driving force for him for many years.
Rodgers was diagnosed with Lupus in middle of last season, which forced her to miss a couple of Barber's games. But it also made their relationship stronger.
"It kind of got to me a little bit. I got down and never really knew how to deal with it," Barber said. "Eventually when we were able to deal with it and I could see she was OK, that was my big motivation right there. I dedicated that season to my mom."
She was also the driving force behind Barber's game after he transferred from Poplar Bluff two years ago. With his biggest cheerleader by his side, Barber worked his way into the starting lineup and flourished in then second-year coach Andrew Halford's offense.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard doubled his averages in his final season with the Green Wave, scoring 10 points per game with six rebounds, and was named to the Bootheel All-Conference team. Barber joins former teammate Trevor Ison as the first pair of Malden basketball players to make the leap to the collegiate level since 1995.
"He's part of the reason why we had such a quick jump to being successful just in Year 2 of building our program," Halford said. "I was a little surprised just because of how far Shamaudre has had to come in his career and the fact that teams don't usually get two guys to move on like that."
Malden finished 21-7 this season after a loss in the district championship game, but the practices and workouts didn't end for that trio. Barber, Ison and Halford get together in the gym as often as they can reminiscing from past seasons and looking ahead to new ones.
"Me and Trevor, pretty quickly we figured out all we had to do was buy into coach Halford's system," said Barber, who plans to study physical education and one day be a coach. "He allowed us to be leaders on the team, we found success off that and his philosophies are something I'll never forget."