Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Faith and family at the center of Sarah Ashlee Barker’s emergence for Crimson Tide

CW / Riley Brown
Alabama basketball player Sarah Ashlee Barker (#3) shoots a free throw against South Florida.

Thirty-one years after her father, Jay Barker, brought a national championship to Tuscaloosa as the starting quarterback of the legendary 1992 football team, senior forward Sarah Ashlee Barker has emerged as the face of Alabama women’s basketball. She averages over 15 points per game in her second season on a Crimson Tide team with NCAA tournament aspirations. 

But the path here wasn’t immediately clear.  

Barker stunned many when she committed to Georgia as a high school junior in 2018. By the time her career at Spain Park High School ended, Barker was one of the most decorated players in Alabama high school history.  

A two-time state champion, Barker was named the state’s 2020 Miss Basketball by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, in addition to being named Gatorade Alabama Girls Basketball Player of the Year and Player of the Year; however, she stood by her decision to go play for then-head coach Joni Taylor’s Bulldogs. 

“The only reason I really wanted to go there was because I felt like I connected with the coach really well,” Barker said. “My dad did play here [at Alabama], and he won a national championship, so the main thing for me was that I kind of wanted to go and make a name for myself and do my own thing. The best thing was for me to go to Georgia.” 

Barker had an immediate impact at Georgia. In 24 games as a freshman, she averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game and was named to the All-SEC freshman team. The next year, she took the next step, starting all 31 games for the Bulldogs while averaging 7.7 points and four rebounds per game. Barker also showed she had a penchant for big moments, hitting a game-tying 3 at the buzzer to force overtime in an 82-80 win over North Carolina State. 

In 2022, though, legendary Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair announced his retirement, and the Aggies chose Taylor as his successor. Barker hit the transfer portal just days later. 

“I did consider going to Texas A&M because that’s where my coach went, but I kind of evaluated what would be the best fit for me from an offensive standpoint and from a basketball standpoint,” Barker said. “Obviously family’s very important to me, and I didn’t want to go and be nine hours from home, so it was kind of an easy decision. I knew how Alabama ran their offense, they’re a four-guard offense and their guards are very implemented into the offense, so I knew that I would be able to develop as a guard.” 

Head coach Kristy Curry said she was ecstatic upon landing Barker. 

“We are so proud and excited to welcome Sarah Ashlee Barker home to Alabama,” Curry said in a press release at the time. “She has the two most important qualities that we look for in a player that you can’t coach, and that is heart and hustle. Those attributes truly make her special as a competitor and a teammate.” 

To nobody’s surprise, Barker continued to shine with the Crimson Tide, averaging similar stats while starting 28 games on a team that made the second round of the NCAA tournament.  

Barker, one of just four returners from last year’s squad, was pegged by many as a leader on this year’s team. Her teammates, from fellow senior Loyal McQueen to freshman Essence Cody, have raved about her leadership qualities. But nobody thinks more highly of Barker than her former coach. 

“SA is someone who I feel like is a daughter to me,” Taylor said at SEC Tip-Off in October. “The first thing I think about when I think about her is her toughness, you know, she has toughness that a lot of players lack that puts her ahead of the eight ball. Then there’s her ability to shoot it. She’s a three-level scorer, she can play multiple positions, we see her play the 3, play the 4, and she has a high basketball IQ.” 

Everything has come together on the court for Barker this year. She currently averages 15.6 points per game, good for seventh in the SEC, while she is fourth in the conference in field goal percentage at 57.9%. She is doing all this for an Alabama team that has exceeded expectations, starting the year 7-2 with a statement win over a Louisville team currently ranked No. 22 in the nation. 

As a “COVID senior,” Barker has another year of eligibility remaining, and she fully plans on taking advantage of it. 

“I know I want to stay a fifth year,” Barker said. “I think college athletics is huge, and it’s a lot of fun. And so, I want to be able to stay in college as long as I can. There’s really no thought process other than ‘I have another year, I’m going to take it,’ and whatever happens, happens. God has a plan and I always trust his plan. I really put no thought into it because I trust in him.” 

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