The day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in late August of 2005, Bartley and his family left their home and took refuge in Baton Rouge. Bartley, his parents and his three sisters found themselves holed up in a house with 16 other people. It wasn't until two or three months down the road that they finally got situated in their new home and city.
Sometime after the hurricane hit, the family returned to New Orleans and their old home. They found 12 feet of water in the house, and Bartley said the grass outside was probably higher than a car. It wasn't just the house itself that was ruined, as they also lost their possessions.
"I lost everything," Bartley said. "I don't have any pictures. I didn't have any clothes at the time. My dad lost his truck, my mom lost her Mercedes, so we only had one car."
The hurricane and subsequent flooding accounted for a confirmed 1,836 deaths (with 135 others gone missing and never accounted for). The vast majority of those deaths occurred in Louisiana. Though the Bartleys were fortunately not among those that perished, one can't help but wonder how they were able to bounce back from such a catastrophe.
"It's just our family," Bartley said. "We always just make something out of nothing, I guess. We just kept pushing, just kept believing we were gonna get through it."
Starting over in Baton Rouge, Bartley attended high school at Christian Life Academy. It was there that he excelled at sports. He was an all-state selection two years in a row as a wide receiver for his football team, and received football scholarship offers from Southern Miss and some smaller Louisiana schools.
Some bigger schools took notice as well, with LSU wanting him to walk on and Texas A&M sending him some letters. Bartley's dad was a football player, so this was likely music to his ears.
"Yeah, he wanted me to play football, but I like basketball more," Bartley said about his dad with a smile.
So how does a non-LDS kid from Louisiana end up in Provo, Utah playing basketball for BYU?
"That is crazy," Bartley said with a smile. "I still don't know the answer to this day."
Bartley had a productive high school basketball career as well, receiving first-team all-state honors and being named Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 1A MVP, among other achievements. He helped lead his team to a state title as a senior, but he played at a smaller school, and so attention wasn't easy to come by. He wanted to play Division I basketball but needed more exposure.
Bartley also played AAU ball but said that just wasn't doing it. He played on a team with a lot of high-profile players who got all the attention, including Jarell Martin and Rico Gathers, who now play basketball for LSU and Baylor, respectively.
So, Bartley headed out west last year and enrolled in a prep academy – Future College Prep – in California. He got a lot of looks from colleges, including BYU.
"First of all, he's a great, great kid, and he really had an interest in us when we kind of approached him," said head coach Dave Rose about why he recruited Bartley. "He comes from a wonderful family and really felt like this would be a comfortable place for him to go to school. And then as far as his athletic ability, his skill level and all those things, we felt it was a perfect fit for what we were looking for."
Most of what Bartley knew about BYU initially could be summed up in two words: Jimmer Fredette. But he had also watched BYU play in the post-Fredette era.
"At first I was looking at Gonzaga a lot," Bartley said. "I used to always watch the games, Gonzaga-BYU, the big rivalry games."
He said Gonzaga was about to offer him, but he then committed to Cougar head coach Dave Rose. So what was it that led him to choose BYU?
"I love the support they have here," Bartley said. "They say it's a mid-level program or whatever, [but] it's a lot of support from the whole community, the whole state of Utah. That was probably the biggest thing, the support system. Like I said, I'm used to being supported."
Despite not being LDS, Bartley said it hasn't been hard for him to get used to the strict lifestyle at BYU since Christian Life had similar rules.
What was a big challenge for him to get used to since arriving in Utah last June was the altitude. The summer workouts were tough, but he got through them and has enjoyed his overall time in Provo.
"I love it," Bartley said. "Gotta get used to this – well, I got used to the altitude. It took me, like, three weeks to get used to it, but I was huffing and puffing. I didn't get my mile the first time, I was pretty upset at that. Once I got used to it and got going, I loved it. I still love it now."
Bartley is rooming with two other true freshmen in Eric Mika and Luke Worthington, whom he described as "the two biggest clowns on the team" while grinning.
"It's fun," Bartley said about his new friends. "Yeah, we do everything together everywhere we go. We got class together, we hang out together, we talk to the same people. It's fun. So everywhere you see Luke or you see Eric, you're gonna see me. And vice versa, you see me, you see them, so it's fun."
Evidently Mika and Bartley are indeed good friends, as Mika was trusting enough to let Bartley dunk over him for the dunk contest at BYU's recent Boom Shakalaka showcase. Bartley said it didn't take much work to persuade the 6-foot-10-inch Mika to let him jump over him.
"Actually, we tried it one time, and we tried that night, and we were playing around," Bartley said. "I said, ‘Eric, stand under the goal,' and I jumped over him. Once I did it, I said, ‘Yep, I'm doing it tonight.' Eric's a nice guy, so he's gonna let me do it, and if he didn't, we were gonna have a problem, but he let me do it."
That dunk propelled Bartley to the final round of the dunk contest, where he then lost to Mika. Bartley said Mika didn't talk any trash after defeating him, but he did say that Mika and Kyle Collinsworth talked trash before the contest.
"They had it on their minds to win the dunk contest, and nobody thought I could make it to the finals, so I just let it go," said Bartley. "I just kept doing what I was doing and just got to the finals [against Mika] and ran out of breath at the end."
As for his freshman season, when asked what his expectations are, Bartley said, "Just whenever I get on the floor, just make plays for my teammates, help out any way that I can. They have me playing the four, the one-through-the-four right now, so it's fun I guess. More opportunities for me."
The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound Bartley is listed as a guard on BYU's official roster, but said his favorite position right now is actually the four. He even started at small forward in BYU's final exhibition game last Saturday.
"I feel like I'm a mismatch problem for other players who are bigger players," Bartley said. "I can guard multiple positions and just beat them off the dribble. That's probably best, especially when we run our four-out one-in offense."
Playing Bartley at the four is a way of getting more guards on the court, but he currently isn't the shooting threat that his fellow guards are. He said he works every day with assistant coach Mark Pope and strength and conditioning coach Bob Medina to improve his outside shot.
"I want to get to the level where I can actually knock down a shot consistently, and that's the biggest thing, knocking it down consistently, ‘cause I can get to the rim and finish and get to the rim and make plays for other people. But I want to get to the point where I can knock down a shot consistently."
Bartley said he loves BYU's up-tempo system, a style of play he has some experience with, albeit at an easier altitude.
"At my prep school we did [go up-tempo]. At high school we didn't, we ran a motion offense, so I've played a lot of different offenses. But this is probably my favorite ‘cause you get to run, [and] we have a lot of freedom to make plays when we get the ball."
He likes BYU's offense, but Bartley takes particular pride in his defense.
"I love to play defense," he said. "If somebody scored on me, I would be mad. Yeah, seriously. I try to get the other guys going on defense. I feel like that's my biggest thing – playing defense – and that's gonna keep me on the court, playing defense. So once I play defense, I can get out and run, and once the big guys are running I give them the ball and let them enjoy themselves."
He's played in some BYU exhibition games, but Bartley will get to really put his abilities on display soon once the season starts. His family – that same family that has been through so much together – is looking to come watch him play in person when BYU has back-to-back home games on November 15 and 16, and also plans on attending BYU's home games against Gonzaga and St. Mary's later in the season.
But it all starts for Bartley this Friday when the Cougars host Weber State in the season opener.
"I'm so excited," said Bartley with a smile. "I mean, we have fans come out for exhibition games. I can only imagine what it's like in the regular season. I'm so excited, I can't wait. It's a new year, it's a new team. We're excited as a team to make something happen and surprise a lot of people this year."