Catching up with: Craig Barnum, scoring specialist for near-miss Far East tournament teams
He came to two Far East tournaments a charismatic, effervescent, upbeat and pleasant personality with Jack Armstrong All-American Boy good looks and a penchant for outside shooting that made his Robert D. Edgren teams in 1982 and Yokota in 1983 a threat to win every time they set foot on the court.
Craig Barnum’s Eagles came up short in the 1982 small-schools tournament final, though he was recalled a week later to play in the Far East Tournament All-Star Game against a Japanese team that the American side defeated rather handily.
It was Barnum’s senior year when he made the biggest statement – and also came up short again, this time at the large-school level.
During that 1982-83 regular season, his Yokota Panthers beat everybody in sight except American School In Japan in a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools season in which teams played a triple round-robin schedule of 15 games. Yokota beat ASIJ the first time they met, but lost the next two, setting the stage for one of the greatest Far East Tournament finals of all time.
Yokota vs. ASIJ. Hardscrabble vs. rich kids, military vs. corporate, no love lost between the schools. It was so loud at Yokota’s Main Fitness & Sports Center, I still have the headache. Not a place in the stands featured somebody dressed as an empty seat. The bands were out. The cheerleaders were out.
Barnum and the Panthers had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but he missed the jump shot to seal it. Then Henrik Gistren played hero for ASIJ, hitting two foul shots as ASIJ went on to edge Yokota 53-48 in overtime.
Nearly 30 years later, Barnum is “living the dream,” as he calls it, in the restaurant business out of Columbus, Ohio. He operates his own company and three outlets with more than 200 employees under the banner “CLB Restaurants,” reflecting his initials, led by what he calls his growth vehicle, Matt the Miller’s Tavern. He’s building a fourth restaurant in Carmel, Ind., and plans to build more every year.
Married with three children, Barnum owns a home on Oahu in Hawaii, and says he gets out there at least three times a year.
Barnum says he thinks about his time in Japan “all the time.” Misawa, he says, was the special place – quiet, isolated, golf course, lake, camp grounds, motorcycle trails, snow, the ice festival in Hokkaido. “It was really a unique place,” Barnum said, recalling how basketball practice would take place at 6 a.m. before school and how walking in the snow to the gym was “always a treat. The challenge was staying awake before lunchtime and I was scolded many times for falling asleep in geometry class.”
Barnum says he plays basketball three times a week to this day. “I did play one year in college and quit – dumbest decision I ever made. I try and tell the young kids I play with that if you have an opportunity to play college athletics, do it and stick it out – it only happens once in your life. Still love to play, but the body is beginning to fall apart – ankes and knees. Advil comes in handy.”
Thanks for the line, Craig! *smile*