Valparaiso University freshman Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) was glued to his device for nearly every Valpo men’s basketball game in 2019-2020, but the chance to see his future team compete in the Missouri Valley Conference title game on March 8 took his excitement to a whole new level.
“Watching the final game on CBS was awesome,” Barrett said. “It was right before one of our games at Brewster Academy, and I was able to sit there and watch on cable television with big-time announcers. It was a crazy range of emotions and it became very real that I’d be playing at Valpo.”
Next year is here for Barrett, whose excitement level for being a part of the Valpo basketball program has continued to climb.
“We’ve had a lot of positive experiences already in my limited time on campus,” he said. “One thing that surprised me when I arrived is how close the team is and the fun energy that surrounds the program. There is a significant age discrepancy from freshmen to seniors, but everyone is united with a common goal.”
Before spending a postgraduate year at Brewster, Barrett averaged 11.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a high school senior during the 2018-19 season at Loyola Academy. He knocked down 64 3-pointers and shot at a 37.9 percent clip, leading his team to back-to-back regional championships and sectional appearances.
“My time playing at Loyola Academy shaped the player that I am now,” Barrett said. “I would never have been in this situation if it weren’t for my high school program and Coach (Tom) Livatino. My favorite memory was playing in the sectional final versus Evanston; it was a once in a lifetime experience. Finally making it to a sectional final was special even though we lost. I’ve watched that game around seven times on film, and it’s hard to watch because you wish you could redo certain plays, but I appreciate experiencing that moment.”
The repeated film study is a testament to the work ethic displayed by Barrett, whose efforts have helped him accomplish the goal of reaching the Division-I level and playing for a University rich with basketball tradition.
“He’s worked his whole life to get to this point,” Loyola Academy head coach Tom Livatino said. “His dream was to play Division-I basketball, and he’s not going to stop now. He’s just going to keep working. Valpo fans will enjoy watching him play and respect the way he plays the game. He’s a relentless worker and he worked extremely hard during the quarantine last spring and got significantly better during that time.”
Barrett’s winning ways go back to his middle school days, when his team won three straight championships in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. At the high school level, Barrett garnered all-Catholic Blue honors and was a 3A/4A all-state special mention by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association in 2018-19.
“He’s an elite level shooter with size,” Livatino said. “He’s a 6-foot-5 guard who can flat out shoot; that jumps out right away when you watch him play. People are also going to appreciate his defensive ability and his basketball IQ. He understands scouting reports and brings the intangibles that make him a great player. He likes winning, he’s very competitive and he has a good sense of humor. Since he graduated, our relationship has evolved from player-coach to a friendship. He’s just a great person.”
Livatino was a football assistant at New Trier High School and instructed Matt Lottich in football during the current Valpo head coach’s younger years. Livatino said Barrett’s effort and attitude remind him of those displayed by Lottich.
“Matt won every single sprint we ever ran; he was that kind of kid,” Livatino said. “He played the right way, played to win and played for his teammates. He was a stud in all three sports, which doesn’t happen anymore and didn’t happen much back then. He had his pick of what high major school he would attend and which sport he would play. He could have been drafted in baseball or played football at a power five conference had he not chosen to play basketball at Stanford.”
The man who has a deep knowledge of both Barrett and Lottich believes the two will form a strong player-coach combination.
“The Missouri Valley Conference is a phenomenal league, and Coach Lottich was a huge part of Connor’s decision,” Livatino said. “They’re building something special at Valpo. I would want my son to play for Matt, 100 percent. Connor’s family saw a lot of the same things, and that was one of the major reasons he chose Valpo. It’s such a great basketball tradition and with it being so close, I’m looking forward to making a lot of games throughout Connor’s career.”