Northern Star: Conner Barney
For this week's segment, we feature a Cloquet basketball player who's making a big impact in just his second season with the program.
CLOQUET, Minn. – There’s one place you’ll be able to find Cloquet senior guard Conner Barney almost any time of day.
“He’s in the gym all of the time, he’s a gym rat,” Cloquet head coach Steve Battaglia said.
“If I don’t got a gym, there’s an open gym in Hinckley that’s 24/7 so I’ll go up there as late as I want,” Barney added.
Originally from the Fond du Lac Reservation, Barney moved around a lot growing up.
“I grew up in Bemidji and Cass Lake, everywhere from there, been through foster homes, and made my way back here in ninth grade,” Barney said.
During that time, Barney leaned on his strong relationships with his brothers as he’s the youngest of seven boys.
“I kind of did get in the gym with Noah. I moved down here, I was in a foster home with him for a bit. He just turned 18 and got me started in AAU my sophomore year. I kind of followed my brother Noah at first, that’s why I wear number 3 because of Noah. My mom played basketball too.
And then things got tougher in 2011 when Barney’s mom passed away.
“We just started following her footsteps, trying to make her proud. Both my parents, I don’t have two parents in my life. It kind of gets hard,” Barney said.
Barney continued to put time in at the gym where he eclipsed 1,000 career points. Then the Fond du Lac program was cut last season due to the pandemic. So he then transferred to Cloquet.
“He played, started for us right away. You can tell he’s much more comfortable this year with systems, last year was a lot of learning. Now he’s comfortable with what we do, pretty simple approach to things. He’s meant a ton for us to join the team, we’re lucky to have him here,” Battaglia said.
In his first season with the Lumberjacks, he helped lead them to a Lake Superior Conference title.
“Last year we were lucky enough to win the conference but that was with Conner on our team and I don’t know if we would have done that without him. This year, same thing we run everything through Conner both offensively and he marks up against the opponent’s best players defensively. Last year he was just a great addition, this year he’s kind of the central part,” Battaglia added.
Not only did Barney’s move benefit the team but it also helped him achieve milestones on and off the court, and helped set his eye to the future.
“When I hit my first 1,000 [career points], I cried in the locker room with my brother, we cried for a bit, I didn’t really want to cry in front of everybody but as soon as I hit 2,000 I might cry or tear up a little bit. I never thought I’d get an [college scholarship] offer or anything. I came a long way from nothing. Making my mom proud, she’s really proud of me, give me a big hug. Making everyone proud around me, making all of the younger people look up to me,” Barney said.