Injury Gives Barnes Perspective

Eight months after tearing her right ACL in a game against the Los Angeles Sparks last July, Seattle Storm forward Adia Barnes is back on the court. But she's not the same player.

Barnes was in the midst of outstanding 2003 season when she was injured.
Jeff Reinking/WNBAE/Getty
Last month, Barnes was cleared to begin participating in live games, ending a lengthy and arduous rehab period she describes as "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

"I'm playing in women's leagues here, I'm working out, normal routine," Barnes says. "Nothing's set me back. I thought, when I first started playing - I was sore for a couple of days - I thought that I was going to have to back off. My knee is strong and went through so much a couple of months ago, the sore stage, I feel good."

Because her rehabilitation has gone so smoothly, Barnes should be at full strength when the Storm opens training camp in a month and a half. She also has been able to get in her regular off-season workouts, meaning she could take the same kind of step forward - make that a giant leap - she took between the 2002 and 2003 seasons, when she went from making just one regular-season three-pointer to 12 in 31 attempts in 16 games before the injury.

"I think I'm going to be even better," says Barnes. "I think I've gotten a lot stronger mentally, and a lot more patient with myself. Right now, I look better in workouts than I did before I got hurt. (Assistant coach) Jenny (Boucek)'s been really excited. I feel very confident right now, which is good."

In part, that improved mental strength reflects a shift in attitude. Gaining experience - her six years in the WNBA have made Barnes an unrestricted free agent this winter - and the perspective of a major, potentially career-threatening injury - the first of her career, minor or major, as she likes to point out - have changed how Barnes approaches basketball and life in general.

Barnes vows to seize the moment now more than ever before, taking more risks and avoiding thinking too much on the court, to complement her already present dedication to the game and work ethic.

At the same time, she speaks about looking at the big picture and considering her future after basketball, even at age 27. That includes the possibility of getting into coaching, preferably at her alma mater, the University of Arizona.

"That's something I might want to do after (playing)," says Barnes. "Do I want to do that now? No. Maybe I'll want to do that in a year or two, I think that would be great. I love the University of Arizona, I have a great relationship with the coaching staff there for women's basketball, and that's somewhere I'd love to go back to."

Barnes is currently back in Seattle working out with Boucek and, for the second straight season, headlining the team's "Stormin' the Sound" campaign. Barnes is a natural in the role because of her dedication to helping the community and children in particular, as emphasized by her foundation, Adia's Dreams in Action. Still, Barnes praises the Storm's Community Relations Coordinator, Sarah Childs, for the success of "Stormin' the Sound".

Barnes on a recent "Stormin' the Sound" trip.
Storm Photos
"Sarah's done a great job of getting me out in the community and establishing different relationships and promoting me," Barnes says. "I think she's done an incredible job. She deserves a lot of credit. We've established a lot of relationships like Junior Achievement, different programs, and it's really helped myself, the foundation and the Storm.

"Right now, we're putting together a section for kids (at Storm home games), so many great things. For me, it's rewarding to go out, establish relationships, help children. Then my foundation raises the money and donates stuff to those schools. It's getting people familiar with me - it's definitely increased my fan base. A lot of people say, 'Wow, we remember her.' I hear it a lot at events around the city and it's amazing."

Officially, Barnes remains an unrestricted free agent. But while she has yet to sign a contract - something that will probably happen within the next month or so - it's clear from her off-season schedule that Barnes will return for a third season with the Storm.

"For me, this is the place I want to be," Barnes explains. "I really like the organization, I like everything about it, so I don't think for me it's an issue of wanting to go somewhere else. I just let it play, worry about doing my thing in the community, working out, giving myself the best opportunity for next year."

After bouncing to four teams in her first five WNBA seasons, Barnes has found a home in Seattle, and she appreciates the consistency. At the same time, consistency wouldn't be important if she did not genuinely enjoy her teammates and the rest of the Storm franchise.

"I'm really comfortable with where I am," Barnes says. "I'm not going to play somewhere where I'm not happy. I know I'll be happy here. That's more important at this point in my career."