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Misha Barrett takes the court for Niwot

Series: Niwot boys basketball | Story 7

January 29, 2020

Jocelyn Rowley

Niwot special needs student Misha Barrett is getting a chance to play with the traditional high school program this season.

When he's on the court "making it rain" for Niwot, shooting guard Misha Barrett looks like any other underclassman hustling for a chance to leave the 'D' team behind. It's only when you get a chance to talk to him that you realize that the hardworking three-point specialist has significant cognitive deficiencies, thanks to an anoxic brain trauma suffered at birth. But that hasn't stopped him from playing the game he loves, and now he's getting a chance to do it for the team he loves.

"It feels great to be a Niwot Cougar," Barrett said after a recent game against Greeley Central. "I've been dreaming about this moment since middle school. I've been wanting to make the team for Niwot, and I didn't have the opportunity before. Now I have the opportunity."

It's an opportunity he took a long road to get to. Born in Ukraine, he was orphaned at an early age, and spent time in three state-run institutions with an older sister. The pair were adopted and brought to the U.S. by Johnny Barrett and his wife Twyla when Misha was six, but it took years of therapy to recover from his tumultuous beginnings.

The youngest Barrett's talent for basketball revealed itself in third-grade, when his dad Johnny Barrett entered him into a "Pass, Dribble, Shoot" contest sponsored by the Optimists. Misha took first place, and, ever since, it's been hard to keep him off the court.

"My parents got me into basketball, and I just started living it," he said.

When he reached high school, Barrett played for the Silver Creek Raptors unified team, where his penchant for scoring made him a "rock star" among the other players. This year, however, he decided to bring his talents back to his home school, and was selected for Niwot's fourth team during a tryout in November.

"I'll give it up for the unified team. I had a lot of fun with that team, but here I'm having the best time of my life playing for my Niwot Cougars."

Barrett typically plays guard for the Cougars, but will gladly play "any position my coach wants me to." He enjoys the more physical style of the high school game, as well as the opportunity to contribute on defense. However, he said his preference is playing offense, "because it gives me the opportunity to shoot and score points for my team."

D-team head coach Jeremy Johnson said that adjusting to a more competitive level has proved challenging for Barrett at times, and that it takes "a little extra coaching" to get him to understand the plays.

"His biggest challenge is being able to retain information-knowing where to be at, and when to be there," Johnson said.

Jocelyn Rowley

Niwot's Misha Barrett didn't get a chance to play physical defense during his stint on the unified team, so he's making up for it with Niwot.

However, the coach also called Barrett a "competitor" and praised the junior's hard work. "He's confident, but now that he's playing at a more competitive level, when he scores buckets and has success, it makes him feel a lot better. So what I'm trying to get him to understand is that it's not about self, it's more about teamwork."

Unfortunately, it seems like Barrett's teammates could use a refresher as well. The Cougars D-team is currently winless, which Barrett said has been the hardest part of an otherwise "awesome season."

"I like to tell him that they have a perfect record, 0-8," Johnny Barrett said. "He hates it when I say that."

When he's not on the court for his beloved Cougars, Barrett is a special needs student in his junior year at Niwot. He serves as a manager for the Cougar football team, and is also on Niwot's unified track team. Outside of school, he is active at church, and volunteers with his dad at church and civic events, including Niwot road crews. He also loves pizza almost as much as he loves basketball.


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