John Barnes came to Youngstown State with a long history of winning, and he has showed in his two seasons that he has the ability and energy to build the Penguins women's basketball program into a perennial contender in the Horizon League. He enters his third year as the program's head coach in 2015-16.
In his second year, Youngstown State reached the WNIT for just the second time in the program's history. The Penguins won their first 10 games for the first time at the Division I level, and they finished with a 21-11 record for the program's second 20-win season in the last three years. Along with those notable accomplishments on the court, Youngstown State appeared on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll in 2014-15 for having a 3.422 GPA, which was the 22nd-best mark of all Division I teams in the country.
The program's improvement in the Horizon League is a main indicator that Barnes has Youngstown State on the rise. The Penguins have won at least nine conference games and advanced to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament in each of the past three seasons. Prior to 2012-13, over the program's first 11 years in the conference, YSU had won a maximum of eight league games and had never finished higher in the standings than fifth.
The Penguins broke several team records in Barnes' second year while playing with seven true freshmen, the most in the Horizon League and in Ohio. YSU set a new standard with 11 non-conference victories, and freshman guards Nikki Arbanas and Indiya Benjamin helped the Penguins set new school records for assist-to-turnover ratio and fewest turnovers per game. Additionally, Youngstown State had its best marks in points per possession, scoring margin and free-throw percentage in 17 years.
On the national level, Youngstown State ranked 13th in free-throw percentage and 22nd in 3-pointers per game. YSU made 250 3-pointers in 2014-15, and it is one of 18 programs in the country to make at least 200 in each of the last five seasons.
The Penguins' success led to the highest average attendance at Beeghly Center in nine years. YSU averaged 1,518 fans at home in 2014-15, which was more than any other Division I team located within 130 miles of Youngstown.
Among the individual highlights in Barnes' second year, Heidi Schlegel finished up one of the top two-year stretches in school history. She became just the fifth player in school history to earn first-team all-conference honors twice, and she finished her career with 1,729 points, the fourth-most in school history, and 796 rebounds, the seventh-most in school history. Schlegel scored 1,205 points in her two years under Barnes, which is the third-highest two-year total in program history. She turned in the fifth and eighth-highest season scoring totals in program history with Barnes on the bench. Schlegel signed a professional contract to play in Germany following her senior year.
There were plenty of other individual highlights in 2014-15. Arbanas set a YSU freshman record with 55 3-pointers, which was also the most by any freshman in the conference. Benjamin was voted to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team, and Kelsea Newman tied the school record for 3-pointers by a sophomore. Senior Latisha Walker had the best year of her career and finished with 49 blocks in 2014-15, the third-most in program history.
Prior to the season, Barnes and his staff secured a talented five-person recruiting class that ranked among the top 25 percent in the country, according to two prominent recruiting services. Four of the five players were named First-Team All-Ohio as seniors.
Barnes, a tireless recruiter and a detail-oriented teacher, set a new school record for wins by a first-year head coach with 15 during the 2013-14 season. He led an overachieving Penguins squad to a third-place finish in the Horizon League and a berth in the conference tournament semifinals for the second straight season. YSU won its first six league games to match its best start ever to conference play and finished 10-6, which was its second-best record since joining the Horizon League in 2001. The Penguins became just the second league team in the past 16 years to sweep conference champion Green Bay.
Barnes's influence was very noticeable on the offensive end as the Penguins had their best performance in more than a decade. Despite losing the Horizon League Player of the Year and an all-conference point guard from the 2012-13 team, Barnes' group was the highest scoring offense at YSU since 1999-2000 with an average of 70.3 points per game. Additionally, they had their best rebounding advantage in 19 years.
Several student-athletes flourished in Barnes' offense. Schlegel was among the Horizon League's most-improved players, doubling her previous scoring average and earning first-team all-conference accolades. She averaged 20 points and eight rebounds and set a new school record for made free throws. Liz Hornberger had her best season and averaged a Horizon League-leading 3.1 3-pointers per game during conference play. She made 80 3-pointers during the season and finished her career with a school-record 199 treys. Another 3-point specialist, Monica Touvelle, was named the Horizon League's Sixth Player of the Year, and guard Jenna Hirsch was named to the league's all-freshman team.
The program had a 3.46 cumulative GPA in the 2013 fall semester, which was the second-highest GPA of any team on campus. Hornberger and Schlegel were both voted Academic All-Horizon League, giving the Penguins two honorees for the first time.
Barnes and his staff worked ambitiously to assemble a very talented 2014 recruiting class that included the state player of the year in Michigan and another first-team all-state honoree from Pennsylvania.
In his two seasons with the Penguins, Barnes owns a 36-27 record with the program. Impressively, YSU is 19-13 in Horizon League play and has won 32 of its last 50 games since January 2014. Through eight seasons as a collegiate head coach, he is 192-82.
Barnes came to YSU with 17 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level and had won more than 70 percent of the games he'd coached. Barnes, the seventh head coach in the proud history of the YSU women's basketball program, spent the previous season serving as associate head coach at Green Bay and the previous two seasons as an assistant in the Big Ten. He led Division II Michigan Tech to 156 wins and five appearances in the NCAA Tournament as the Huskies' head coach from 2003-10.
In his most recent stop before becoming a Division I head coach for the first time at YSU, Barnes was the associate head coach under Kevin Borseth at Green Bay as the Phoenix won the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles in 2012-13. Green Bay finished 29-2 and was ranked in the top 20 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. Barnes also coached with Borseth at Michigan in 2011-12 and helped lead the Wolverines to just their fourth 20-win season in school history and their first at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament in 11 years. Barnes helped lead Wisconsin to the second round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament and a third-place finish in the Big Ten in 2010-11, which was his first at the Division I level.
Prior to joining Wisconsin's staff, Barnes spent seven seasons leading one of the top Division II programs in the country at Michigan Tech. The Huskies went 156-55 in his seven campaigns, qualified for the NCAA Tournament five times and won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament three times. Michigan Tech advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in each of his last two seasons, and Barnes culminated his career by being named the WBCA Region Coach of the Year in 2009-10. The Huskies went 31-3 that season, setting school records for wins and winning percentage while being ranked No. 1 in the country for seven weeks. Barnes was named the GLIAC Coach of the Year in each of his final three seasons at Michigan Tech.
On the individual level, Barnes had a proven record as a recruiter and on-floor coach. He had a hand in signing Wisconsin's Miss Basketball at Green Bay, Michigan's Miss Basketball at Michigan and the Michigan Miss Basketball runner-up at Wisconsin. Barnes was in charge of coaching Green Bay's defense that allowed 49 points per game, the second-fewest in the country. He worked primarily with the Wolverines' post players while coordinating all scouting of opponents in his season in Ann Arbor, and he focused on offensive efficiency and player development in his year at Wisconsin. At Michigan Tech, Barnes recruited and developed the only First-Team All-American in school history, two GLIAC Players of the Year and two Academic All-Americans. The Huskies' team grade-point average ranked in the top five nationally four times in his seven seasons.
Before becoming the head women's coach at Michigan Tech, he spent six years on the men's staff at the Houghton, Mich., campus as an assistant coach. Barnes played an integral role in building the men's program into national prominence as the Huskies went 133-48 while winning the GLIAC North Division four times and making four NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2002-03, his final season on the men's staff, Michigan Tech went 29-3 overall, captured GLIAC regular season and tournament titles and was ranked atop the national poll for a period.
Barnes was a four-year member of the men's team at Michigan Tech from 1991-95 and earned a spot on the GLIAC All-Defensive Team as a senior. He got his start as a collegiate coach as an assistant at Lake Superior State in 1995-96, helping the Lakers win the GLIAC North Division. Barnes spent a year overseas serving as a player-coach for the St. Nicolai Basketball Club in Denmark in 1996-97 before starting his six-year stint at his alma mater.
Barnes graduated from Michigan Tech in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in scientific and technical communication.