Barnett adds size, speed to Mav women’s hoops team
Christal Barnett fell in love with the mountains during a visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
When she was denied acceptance to Air Force, where she planned to play basketball, because of a mild case of scoliosis, she was determined to find another school in the Rocky Mountain region.
“I really like Colorado; it’s so beautiful,” Barnett said Thursday. The 5-foot-11 guard from Charlotte, N.C., visited Metro State and Mesa State this summer. After playing pickup games with the Mavericks and seeing mountains everywhere she looked in Grand Junction, she was sold.
Because she attended a small, private school, Barnett said, she didn’t think she’d be comfortable at a big school.
“I wanted to play for a small school,” she said. “Somewhere I can make a difference, a team with unity, and the coaches are really nice. I got along with the girls really well.”
Coach Roger Walters projects Barnett to play on a wing, but she’s versatile enough to play anywhere on the floor.
“You’ve got to be lucky every once in awhile,” Walters said of getting a high-caliber player late in the summer. “She loves Colorado, and once the Air Force thing fell through, the coach there called a couple of RMAC schools and we were on the list.
“Michael (Wells, an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator) contacted her and got her on a visit and the rest is history.”
Barnett averaged 16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.2 steals her senior year at Charlotte Christian, where she earned four varsity letters. She scored more than 1,000 points in her career and made the state all-tournament team her senior year.
“The thing about Christal is she’s really athletic and quick,” Walters said. “She can play all five positions, she can rebound, she averaged over seven a game.”
Barnett said she enjoys playing defense and getting out in transition, and Wells said her speed from one end of the floor to the other could add a new element to Mesa’s game.
“She’s really active defensively. She reminds me a lot of Katrina (Selsor), and that’s as good an RMAC kid as you’re going to find,” Walters said. “Having two (tall, long-armed players) on both sides defensively, we should be pretty solid.
“This one, as a true freshman, she can flat-out play.”