Sea Lion Spotlight of the Week: Meet Coby Barnes

#4 Cody Barnes. Photo courtesy of PLNU Athletics SmugMug, credit to Kara Templin.

Named Academic All-PacWest (Pacific West Conference) honors his first and second year at Point Loma Nazarene University and averaging 8.5 points per game as men’s basketball’s fourth-leading scorer, 6-foot-4 guard Coby Barnes is a third-year accounting major, but he’s also a team leader, a faithful follower of Christ and a committed athlete.

Born in Visalia, California, Barnes spent his childhood playing baseball year-round before moving an hour north to Fresno, California, for better baseball schools. 

Although Barnes was a devoted baseball player at a young age, he enjoyed basketball as well. It wasn’t until his sophomore year at Buchanan High School, though, that he decided to take basketball more seriously. There, he earned Second-Team All-Conference. 

According to Barnes, his high school coach, Brooks Malm, is one of his biggest influences. Malm began training Barnes in his sophomore year. 

“I wouldn’t be here; my game wouldn’t be where it’s at without [him],” Barnes said. “He believed in me before I did. He was a basketball junkie and that rubbed off on me.”

During his junior year, Barnes played for the club team EBO [Elite Basketball Organization] until the coronavirus pandemic.

When the pandemic occurred, to keep playing basketball, Barnes transferred to Santa Margarita Catholic in Orange County where he lived with family friends. Barnes helped the team win the Division II California Southern Section Regional Championship his senior year.

“I already committed to Point Loma [before transferring], so it wasn’t about getting more schools interested, but more so about getting ready and having a senior year,” Barnes said.

Transferring brought Barnes deeper in his faith with God. 

“I left my family and that was super hard. I’m so thankful that I transferred because I had to lean on God more,” Barnes said.

Attending PLNU, Barnes’ faith has continued to grow. 

“I’ve been blessed with so many relationships with other Christians, and that grew my faith,” Barnes said.

Barnes comes from a big family of sports lovers. He has six siblings: three half-siblings, two full-siblings and one step-sibling. All of his siblings have been involved in sports, including volleyball, wrestling, rugby, tennis, baseball and golf. His oldest brother, Tanner, even played on the U20 USA Rugby Junior All-American team in 2012.

Barnes’ parents, Diane and Wayne, are also big sports fans. Diane played softball, volleyball, basketball and tennis, while Wayne played tennis, football and basketball. 

Wayne played a big role in Barnes’ and his brother Charlie’s basketball life. He would take them to the gym to work out and develop their love for the sport. This love is part of what got Barnes into the successful program at PLNU.

“The past two years we’ve won [the PacWest] conference. It’s easy to get used to winning at Point Loma. It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a good program,” Barnes said.

After a couple of recent wins over Biola, Barnes and the Sea Lions stand in first place in the PacWest, but Barnes acknowledged the season they still have ahead of them.

“We are not satisfied,” said Barnes. “We’re going to stay the course and stay consistent, nothing’s going to change and the results will take care of itself.”

The success of this team thus far is a result of the work it puts in during the preseason. According to Barnes, the team practiced five days a week — one of the days being off-the-court where the players were allowed time to focus on their mental and spiritual health. They also got to hear from various guest speakers. 

“It was a cool experience to know that your coaches care about you as a person before they care about you as a basketball player,” Barnes said.

October of 2023 was when the Sea Lions began scrimmaging other teams. They also went on a three-day retreat to Arizona where they participated in team-bonding activities and built stronger friendships.

Now, during the season, the team has two days where it prepares before a game. According to Barnes, the team watches film before practicing to be best equipped for the upcoming opponent.  

Barnes’ goal for this season is to progress as a team.

“Truly maximize our potential,” Barnes said. “Last year, we dealt with a lot of injuries, but truly maxing out and not leaving anything on the table is something that is super important to this group.”

On Jan. 6, Barnes scored a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that won PLNU the game against Hawaii Hilo. 

“It’s one of the best feelings in sports, honestly,” said Barnes. “When you’re a kid in your driveway and you’re practicing on your hoop, you’re like ‘5…4…3…2…1.’ Everyone wants to make the buzzer-beater. Once I saw it go in, I looked at the referee because I wanted to make sure he said it counted before we celebrated. It was super surreal.”

To prepare for a game, Barnes goes to a “team shoot-around” — which is a walk-through practice with the team — then the Sea Lions will watch film of their opponent. Then, he goes back to his room and takes a nap. 

As a game approaches, Barnes will listen to music, stretch and watch more film. His favorite game day song is “Open the Scroll” by UPPERROOM.

Barnes’ relationship with basketball has transformed from when he was in high school. He said that he used to find his identity within his performance. 

“I was chasing the wind,” Barnes said. “I struggled with self-confidence, but it really helped me with my faith. Jesus freed me and saved me from that mindset. So now, basketball is not who I am, but it’s what I do,” said Barnes. “I think that’s super important in today’s age where sports is super idolized.”

As one of the leaders on the team, Barnes said he has taken a humble posture. 

“I try to be a servant to my teammates and lead from that aspect. Jesus exemplified the greatest form of leadership, so I try to implement that the best I can,” Barnes said. 

Barnes attends Captivate Church where his former teammate, Brock Mackenzie, who now plays professional basketball for Phoenix Hagen in Germany, invited him during his first year at PLNU. 

Balancing school work and basketball commitments, Barnes said he has obtained time management skills that allow him to stay on top of his responsibilities. 

“Communicating, being disciplined and getting ahead is how I do it,” Barnes said.

With a degree in accounting when he graduates, Barnes is considering either pursuing a career as a CPA [Certified Public Accountant] or as a certified financial advisor. 

Outside of basketball, Barnes is a part of the Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) for PLNU where they discuss ways to get sports teams more involved on campus. 

He’s also involved in PLNU’s Homeless Ministry where they travel downtown to share the Bible with those experiencing homelessness. 

“I think that that should be required for everyone [at PLNU]. I’ve had a lot of cool conversations, and I’ve had homeless people pray for me before — super powerful moments have happened,” Barnes said.

Barnes also loves being outside. He enjoys going to the beach, hiking, playing spikeball and going on spontaneous trips with his roommates.

One piece of advice Barnes would give to someone who is struggling with integrating their faith with their sport is to, “Seek first His kingdom. In everything that you do. You’re not going to be perfect, and it’s not going to be easy. The more I deny myself, [God’s] desires become my desires. So, if you do that, you’ll be more content.”