Despite impressive high school credentials, Skowhegan’s Levi Barnes wasn’t heavily recruited by any colleges to play basketball.

In fact, he was barely recruited at all, which led to a chip on his shoulder that helped turn him into the North Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Year last season at Thomas College.

“There’s a lot of colleges that told me I couldn’t play at any level.” Barnes said.

Barnes was recruited by T.J. Maines who left Thomas after last season to take a basketball job at Cony High School.

“He said I was going to have to work for everything I got and I took that as a challenge,” Barnes said.

Barnes was up to the challenge. Both Maines and new Thomas head coach Darrell Alexander say he’s one of the hardest working players they’ve ever coached.

“They’re not many people that out-work him,” Alexander said.

Barnes averaged 23.3 points and 5.8 rebounds his senior year at Skowhegan and was named a first-team Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference all-star. The 6-foot-2 swingman was also the KVAC all-star dunk champion.

Barnes started 13 of 25 games at Thomas last season, averaged 15.7 points a game and led the team in free throw percentage at 87.7. Alexander said Barnes finishes well around the rim and is a good passer. He also shot 36 percent from behind the 3-point arc last year.

“I’m a scorer,” Barnes said. “That’s my job on the team. I have confidence that I’m a great shooter. I’ve been working on it with my dad since I first started playing.”

As much as Barnes grew as a basketball player, he developed even more in a personal way, Maines said.

“He kind of branched out and learned how to be a great teammate,” Maines said.

Barnes said he’s become more vocal this year but both he and Alexander agree his strength is leading by example.

“If someone sees me in the weight room at 6:30 in the morning it might (encourage them),” Barnes said.

Barnes said he’d like to improve his defense and rebounding this season, but in truth he’s always trying to get better at every facet of his game. Over the summer he paid particular attention to shooting off the dribble and catching and shooting, two facets of his game he was already good at.

“He’s not satisfied with being really good,” Maines said.

Barnes has set a goal of playing of playing overseas once he graduates form college. A dean’s list student, he changed his major from business management to education with an eye someday of coaching basketball.

He chose Thomas, he said, because it was close to his home in Skowhegan.

“I love it here,” he said. “This place has given me everything. People are so nice.”

The Terriers are off to an 0-2 start, having lost big to Babson in their season opener and close to Rhode Island College. Thursday they face another tough challenge against Bates.

“I think this schedule is going to be a real big test and how we respond to adversity.” Barnes said. “I think when we come together as a group we’re going to be a better team.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638[email protected]Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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