When Ousmane Barro signed with Marquette in the winter of 2003, college basketball fans began to gather more information about the 6'10'' forward from Senegal. Most found out about Barro at the 2002 Nike camp where he impressed scouts with his wingspan and athleticism, especially on the defensive as a shot blocker and rebounder. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises that people found out was that Barro had never played organized basketball in his life. Because he went to high school in Illinois and was an exchange student, Barro could not compete in Julian High School's basketball games, per IHSA rules. Though he did play some travel ball, his pure potential and athleticism was enough to grab the eyes of many Division I schools, including Marquette. Barro was unlike any recruit Marquette had ever seen. He had never played organized basketball.
During his freshmen year, one could say that Ousmane's development was a microcosm of how Marquette faired during the season. There were some high points and some low points, some great strides made and some disappointments, but in the end it was a learning process. "You have to have goals for yourself. I know that this is going to be a long process but I am prepared to take it one step at a time," Barro said of his season. "I struggled a little bit but I thought I also made some big improvements in a lot of areas."
Barro's words should ring true in the ears of all Marquette fans. With the departure of senior Marcus Jackson, Barro will be counted on to plug the Marquette lane in 2005-6. Jackson's departure leaves a lot of uncertainty in the Marquette frontcourt. A few new recruits should join sophomore Ryan Amoroso, senior Chris Grimm and Barro in the mix for playing time. The team began their individual workouts a few weeks ago, and Barro said that everyone is working on the same page. "We are a team out there. Next year we aren't going to have star players; we just have to do it all together. At this point in the off-season, the coaches are really stressing the fundamentals of the game. I want to become a much better rebounder and post player next season."
No matter how hard Ousmane works in the off-season, nothing is going to come easy for him. Most of his teammates and opponents have been playing organized basketball since their grade school days. With a head start like that, Ousmane knows that he will have to out work most of his peers to excel at the Division I level. "I just want to become a better basketball player all around. I want to contribute as much as I can next season," said Barro, who average two points and two rebounds in only 10 minutes per game his freshmen year. Ousmane also does not have the built in support system that surrounds so many high school and college athletes today. He has not seen his parents in three years. "I try to talk to them every week to tell them how I am doing. I am so lucky to be close to Chicago where a lot of my friends are. I have met a lot of people at Marquette and consider them part of my family too. Its hard at times, but I like it here."
It is not hard to root for a guy like Ousmane. Always sporting a wide smile and an unfailingly positive attitude, Ousmane has the kind of personality that every team needs. With continued patience and more experience on the court, Ousmane should round out Marquette's front court and contribute night in and night out in 2005. While the expectations of Barro might vary among Marquette fans for the remainder of his career, Barro's work ethic will not. "One day at a time, I know I am going to get there."
Developing Ousmane: Fighting to "Get There"
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