“When you think about player of the year candidates you gotta think Jahlil Okafor down in Durham, North Carolina. This kid’s leading the Dukies. I can easily see him in the final four, baby. But hey, don’t ask me. I’ll see you in Indianapolis!”
If you’ve spoken to Karl Barkley ’15 in the past few months, you’ve probably heard him yell that string of sentences. Just a week ago, Barkley, the men’s basketball team’s starting small forward, finally pulled the trigger and entered the Oberto Beef Jerky Dick Vitale impersonation contest. The fan submission that gets the most votes will win a weeklong trip with Dick Vitale. Barkley’s impersonation has gone viral, amassing over 36,000 loops on Vine and garnering over 2,300 votes. With the next highest submission at 825 votes, Barkley has a commanding lead and looks like the early favorite to bring home the jerky trophy.
Although Barkley’s success seems like it would be beneficial for everyone, his impressions may have caused a setback for the blossoming team. As the team’s only senior, many of the players look up to Barkley and follow his lead no matter what. However, according to one teammate, the team’s faith in Barkley could have negative repercussions in years to come.
“During the season Karl seemed pretty focused and then towards the end I’d walk into the locker room and I would hear him acting like he’s Dick Vitale or something,” point guard Matt Brennan ’18 said. “He’d be in there for hours and I would say, ‘Karl, you wanna shoot around?’ but he wouldn’t stop talking in that damn voice.”
As team captain, Barkley was called upon to be a role model. Instead, his growing obsession with voices and his unwillingness to get in extra work on the court rubbed off on the younger players and contributed to an attitude that was not conducive to winning.
Now that the season has concluded, Barkley finally pinpointed the time where his focus began to wane.
“I think it was around the McDaniel game where my friend notified me that this Dickie V contest was coming up,” Barkley said. “At that point I stopped caring about accurately relaying information on the court and became more [conscious of] how to work my Dick Vitale impression into [the game].”
Perhaps the pressure of being the only senior on the team got to Barkley and caused him to have a mental break. Or perhaps he just found his true calling in the impersonation business. In fact, sources can confirm that by the end of the year, Barkley made significant changes to the captain’s practices. He, with the consent of Coach Landry Kosmalski, replaced rebounding and ball-handling drills with something Barkley liked to call “Big Bark Talk.”
In Big Bark Talk, players would pick a name out of a hat and have to impersonate the subject. Items in the hat ranged from an eight-year-old girl at a candy store to Karl’s brother Charles Barkley. Little by little, players and even Coach Kosmalski accepted Barkley’s new method of practice and became keen on learning impersonations.
Brennan acknowledged, “Coach would be yelling at him and all of a sudden he would start yelling back at Coach as if he were Dick Vitale. He would start yelling stuff about ‘Diaper Dandies’ and what not. And Coach didn’t know what to do; he had to play along with it. Karl was just turning into a whole new person.”
What was most fascinating about this odd situation was that Kosmalski greeted Karl’s new methods with open arms. Some members of the team even admitted that Kosmalski coached the last game of the season in character. He took on the persona of an army general, referring to his field manual any time he needed something motivational to say.
Though the team and Kosmalski plan on employing Barkley’s methods for years to come, Barkley exhibited some concerns about the team’s future.
“[The freshmen] definitely are going to have to come up with something, or else they’re not going to be taken seriously,” Barkley said. “I can definitely see Matt Brennan developing his Croatian a little more…or Serbian excuse me. And Yonda… Yonda needs to figure everything out, or else he’ll never be fit to lead.”
In Barkley’s mind, success is clearly intertwined with alter-ego development. Yet, other members of the team, including Zach Yonda ‘18, didn’t see it that way.
“Karl is used to losing,” Yonda said. “[So,] it’s really promising that we’re bringing everyone back next year except for Karl.”
In voicing his displeasure with how Barkley’s innovative methods haven’t yet yielded results, Yonda established that the team’s new changes might not be here to stay. Though Barkley specifically called Yonda out for not having leadership abilities, Yonda averaged 14.3 points this season as a freshman and often provided fire to a team that focused more on emulating George Michael than Michael Jordan.
In the coming weeks, a decision will be looming about whether Karl’s system will stay or a more traditional basketball system will prevail. In any case, Barkley didn’t seem to care about his legacy.
“I’m going to have enough company in Dick Vitale,” Barkley said about his plans for next year. “He’ll make up for all those lousy teammates I had this year.” Barkley went on to add, “But I know they’ll miss me. When an impression like that walks out the door, it’s hard to fill that gap.”
Should Barkley’s convoluted vision of basketball prevail, the 2015-16 Garnet would be quite entertaining to watch. Yet, if they revert back to their old system, they will have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in almost two decades. And with a young team devoid of Barkley’s bad influence, the team has a great chance at achieving their goal.
Watch the video that changed everything here: http://dickvitale.oberto.com/uqkxnty