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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Watching a Mass Star Rise

Photo courtesy of UMB Athletics
Photo courtesy of UMB Athletics

Being a college basketball player comes with many different obstacles. There’s pressure to perform, everyone’s expectations, staying focused on school, and producing for your team. No matter what order they are put in, that’s a heavy load for anyone to carry.

Former UMB hoops star Tony Barros has taken in all of these obstacles and continued his basketball career while succeeding in school. Barros is a triple-major at UMass Boston, studying Criminal Justice, Sociology, and African Studies. Outside of school, Tony plays for the Cape Verde National Team, which pre-qualified for the Olympics over the summer. Barros had an excellent tenure here at UMass, taking home Player of the Year honors in the 2005-06 season, and then leading the Little East Conference in scoring in 2006-07.

Barros, who joined the Cape Verde national team last year, helped them win a bronze medal in the FIBA Africa Championship and pre-qualified them for the Olympics. Cape Verde had been predicted to make an early exit from the FIBA tournament; however they managed to rise above the predictions. “It’s crazy; I didn’t really understand how big it was. We ended up winning the first couple games that we weren’t supposed to win, we got to the elite eight and played Nigeria, [who were] ranked top 20 in the world, and pretty much shocked everyone,” Barros said.

As for the fan base in Cape Verde, people are finally able to watch a team that they feel can compete with countries that have gotten better through the years. “Soccer is predominantly the main sport over there, but what we’ve done this year has changed pretty much everything. We pretty much put Cape Verde on the map [in terms of basketball]. They were partying over there; I think they’re still partying. [When] we beat Nigeria, and there were still a couple more games to go, then we beat Egypt for the bronze, it was definitely a life changing experience.”

Barros spent about two and a half months in Africa playing basketball, while helping the community out every chance he had. He polished up on his Creole, the native language spoken in Cape Verde, and the rules of FIBA basketball. Seeing the way locals live around there was somewhat of a wake-up call to Barros. “It’s different, but it makes you appreciate things a little more. You see people that don’t have much, but they have more fun in their life than some people over here that have a lot. People have things over here that some Cape Verdians could never dream of. It just kind of makes you open up your eyes [and] be more grateful [for] what you have.”

Barros’ family basketball roots run deep. Dana Barros, Tony’s cousin played point guard for the Boston Celtics for five years in the 1990’s. Some would assume that there would be pressure to achieve that same status. However, Tony has managed to remain positive about his future even if basketball is not included. “Basketball used to be everything for me before high school, but then I went to St. Sebastian’s [and] the morals are a little different there. You just learn different things, basketball isn’t everything, and academics need to come first. That school just changed my whole idea of basketball. Even though I love the sport, I’ll take it as far as it goes but I’m going to be successful whether basketball is here or not.”

Those morals carried on through high school and into college where Barros thrived at UMass Boston. As a junior in 2005-06, Tony led the Beacons to an 18-10 record and helped capture the team’s first Little East Conference Tournament Championship. The Beacons also received a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament, something not accomplished since 1983.

Charlie Titus, who is now entering his 30th year of coaching at UMass, received Coach of the Year honors for the 2005-06 season. When asked about his experience with Tony he said, “[Tony’s] outstanding. [A] wonderful human being [who] worked very hard everyday in practice. Tony has very good interpersonal skills. [He’s] smart, charming, and has leadership ability. He was a delight to work with.” Tony reflected the praise, having nothing but positive things to say about Coach Titus. “Charlie’s always been a good figure for me; he always made me go hard no matter what. As a team captain he taught me how to be a better leader on the court, and has always [been] a good role model for me.”

Barros is still keeping in shape by working out in the morning, but plans on stopping by the men’s basketball team this year and helping them whenever he can. Having played here for four years, Tony says it will be hard to keep away from Clark Athletic Center. A good relationship with Coach Titus draws him back, but he’s anxious to see what this year’s team can do.

After graduation in May, Tony will head back over to Cape Verde to play in the Olympic trials to see what other upsets they have up their sleeve. If in some case Barros does not want to pursue his basketball career, he would like to get into the field of forensics. Whichever road Tony plans on going down, he’s got his head on straight and seems like he can succeed in anything he puts his mind to.

As for his expectations in this upcoming Celtics season Barros replied, “I was in Cape Verde all summer [and] a lot of news makes its way out there, and I went online and checked up on the Red Sox here and there. The news on Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen made it out there the next day, that’s how I knew how big that was. They’re definitely making it to the finals, anything less than that is… (laughing). I don’t know man.”

Career HighsPoints34 vs. GA Southwestern ? 1/3/06

Rebounds12 last vs. Southern Maine ? 1/24/06

Assists6 last vs. R.I. College ? 2/18/06

Three Pointers7 at Southern Maine ? 1/18/06