SALT LAKE CITY — To say Sedrick Barefield’s college basketball career has been a roller coaster might be an understatement.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Compton, California, began his career at SMU under coach Larry Brown before transferring to Utah, a place he knew little about and had never seen before. Then after arriving at Utah, he showed flashes of brilliance with 35- and 33-point games as well as games when he didn’t even score. He’s been in and out of the starting lineup, even during this season when he’s served as one of the team captains.
Now with his senior season coming to a close Saturday evening against UCLA (5 p.m. Huntsman Center), Barefield is trying to finish his Ute career on a high note before moving on to what he hopes will be a career in the NBA.
“I’ve been just trying to stay in the moment and focus with Senior Night approaching,” he said. “It’s starting to get a little surreal. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, but at the same time I’m looking forward to the future and doing everything I can to put my teammates and me in The Dance.”
That’s the goal, the NCAA Tournament, something that Barefield has never experienced yet in his college career. It’s going to be a challenge for Barefield and the Utes, who must win either three or four games next week in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 Tournament, the only way the Utes can make the NCAAs. A win against UCLA will give the Utes a first-round bye in the tourney at T-Mobile Arena.
After playing in six games at SMU in 2015, Barefield became eligible at Utah just before Christmas in 2016 and scored 35 points against San Francisco in just his second game with the Utes. That was followed by five games when he didn’t reach double figures. In fact, over the rest of what was his sophomore season, he only scored more than 10 points in five games.
To start his junior season his point totals went as follows — 22, 5, 12, 2, 12, 5, 14 and 7. Games of 23 and 21 points against the Arizona schools were followed by games of 4 and 0 points on 1-of-11 shooting against USC and UCLA.
So how does Barefield explain his up-and-down play?
“I would say the streakiness my first two years came from a different mental approach, trying to find the approach I need to take, day in and day out,” he said. “The times where my stat sheet doesn’t look as efficient is when teams are toughening up their defense and making it hard on me.”
His senior season has been much more consistent, as Barefield has scored in double figures in 19 of the last 20 games, including a 33-point performance against Washington State. In Thursday’s win over USC, he scored 17 points and also came up with seven rebounds and five assists.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak says Barefield has been challenged, being the main player on opponents’ scouting reports through most of his career.
“It’s not just a player showing up and whether (he’s) hot or not,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s a lot of different ways to defend us; sometimes that involves trapping Sedrick and making him defer to teammates. I think we’re really good when Sedrick gets it going and not just by scoring points but by sharing the ball. His assists-to-turnovers have improved dramatically — he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
This season Barefield should be a shoo-in for first-team Pac-12 honors, averaging 16.8 points per game — sixth in the league — and 4.0 assists per game, eighth-best in the league. He’s also 10th in 3-point percentage (39.7) and leads his team in steals with 1.0 per game.
Barefield has no regrets about his decision to come to Utah. He had committed to SMU early in his high school career, but called it “a rough time for me on and off the court and obviously wasn’t a good fit.” He chose Utah soon after being contacted by Krystkowiak and has never looked back.
“Absolutely, it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” he said. “I’ve made lifelong friends and had memories and experiences I’ll never forget and lessons as well. It’s been 100 percent worth it. It’s part of an amazing culture, something that was bigger than myself, and has helped me to grow as a man and as a player.”
One of those lifelong friends is Beau Rydalch, who he calls his “best friend.” Rydalch will be honored with Barefield on Senior Night Saturday along with seniors Parker Van Dyke and Novak Topalovic.
“When I first got to Utah, we just met in the locker room and kind of vibed from there. I had his back and he had my back,” Barefield said of Rydalch. “People around you have a big influence in your life and he’s one of those people who’s super loving and gives great advice and has always been there. He’s like a brother to me.”
Last spring Barefield participated in NBA pre-draft workouts, including one with the Utah Jazz, where he impressed Walt Perrin, the Jazz vice president of player personnel, who said his team would certainly give him a look if he came out a year later.
“He brings energy, he brings athleticism, ability to shoot the ball, to score the ball,” Perrin said last May.
Barefield said he never seriously considered passing up his senior season.
“I really did it to see what the process was like, get feedback and see where I was at,” he said. “The workouts that I did go through went really well. I came back to get better and grow as a player, have another experience of a college season with my teammates.”
Barefield is the son of an African-American father and a Filipino mother and if he does make the NBA, he would become the third player of Filipino descent to do so. He would join Raymond Townsend, who played from 1978-82, and Jordan Clarkson, the former Missouri standout, who plays for Cleveland after starting his career with the Lakers.
Barefield is a polite and well-spoken young man. How many athletes say, “Thank you for taking the time to interview me” to a reporter?2 comments on this story
He has a wide array of interests, including reading, traveling, listening to podcasts and studying art. “I just try to expand my mind and grow as a person,” he said.
Barefield believes his Utes can make some noise at next week’s Pac-12 Tournament, which looks more wide open than ever thanks to Washington’s recent struggles.
“Our goal is to make a run and win three games in the Pac-12 Tournament,” he said. “I think we’re completely capable of doing that. The NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal.”