Basketball Without Borders: Harrison Barnes 'trying to learn as much as I can'

NBA stars hope to inspire future African talent (2:03)

Hear from NBA stars past and present as Basketball Without Borders aims to inspire in Africa. (2:03)

Harrison Barnes has one big advantage over the other first-time visitors to South Africa among the NBA players and coaches in Johannesburg this week.

"My sister-in-law actually lives in Johannesburg with her husband," Barnes said on a media call after the opening day of Basketball Without Borders at the American International School in Midrand.

"So it's been a mini family reunion."

And he has local knowledge.

Barnes travelled to South Africa with his wife, his mother and in-laws, and knew more than his NBA peers and colleagues about the country and its customs and culture because he's had those conversations with his family.

Still ...

"I am just kind of wide-eyed trying to learn as much as I can," Barnes said.

"Being here on the ground is so much different than reading about it. We can actually talk to people who live here, who are around this lifestyle every single day. I think that's what makes it so unique. I'm just excited to just be here because it's so much different than anywhere else I've ever been."

The Dallas Mavericks forward won the 2015 NBA championship as a member of the Golden State Warriors before being traded from the Bay Area in 2016. He told KweséESPN that he has learned while helping at the Basketball Without Borders Africa camp, conducting skills work and coaching the attendees, that the "kids are passionate, they're hungry and they want to learn".

But he explained how the Hoops 4 Hope program is perhaps more important because of the opportunity presented to talk about life skills and "the importance of discipline, the importance of friendship, the importance of community and how ... we all have a social responsibility for that."

Barnes has a history of social responsibility, having received the inaugural Alvin Attles Community Impact Award in 2014, in recognition of his efforts to make a positive impact on the lives of underserved youth in the Bay Area, and he understands that basketball itself allows him that privilege to help in a more meaningful fashion.

"I think Basketball Without Borders is huge just because of the platform that basketball is.

"The game is on fire right now, just expanding overseas and just globally, and I believe that coming here and doing a basketball camp, that's good, that's great. I think it has an impact on the kids.


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"But the fact that we're able to make a donation to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and learn more about the work they're doing here in the community, to be able to go out ... with Habitat For Humanity and literally help build 10 homes with brick and mortar and actually get out there in the community and get involved, I think that's what makes Basketball Without Borders so much different than just a normal basketball camp. We're actually able to experience and have an impact on these kids in more than just an on-the-court way."

And that impact includes Barnes' explanation that the players and the campers each have a common history.

"I've been very fortunate throughout my life with a number of opportunities, a number of great people that have helped me be in the position that I am today to be an NBA basketball player and to be living out my dream," Barnes said, explaining that he wanted to let the campers "know that just because we're standing here as NBA players or on this platform or on this stage, we're just like you guys".

"We were kids with goals and dreams, and we got there through a lot of hard work, but we also got there through a lot of people helping us get to that point and some lucky breaks in there. What we want to try to do and what I try to do is just let these kids know that, look, I'm a resource, I'm here to try to help. I want you guys to be the most successful versions, the best versions of yourselves that you can be, and anything I can do, I'll try to help."