Karl Barkley’s grades and skills on the basketball court allowed him to continue his playing career at one of the nation’s premier small colleges.
But it’s what Barkley has done away from the basketball court that has brought him national acclaim.
Barkley, a Davidson native who graduated from North Mecklenburg High School in 2011, was one of 10 student-athletes named as recipients of the 2015 Allstate NABC Good Works Team award.
A senior guard at Swarthmore College, Barkley was one of three NCAA Division III student-athletes to receive the award, presented by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He was chosen from 158 nominees.
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“I’m really excited about this,” Barkley said. “It was pretty fun to just be nominated and be amongst those guys, but to actually get it was something else.”
The Good Works Team award recognizes college basketball players at all levels who “are actively involved in and committed to working with charitable organizations or service groups on or off campus and/or displayed extraordinary devotion to a personal cause in their lives,” according to the NABC’s website.
“Karl is the definition of a servant leader,” Swarthmore coach Landry Kosmalski – who nominated Barkley for the award – said in a prepared release. “He leads by putting others’ needs before his own at all times, whether it be on the court as our team captain or off the court as our altruistic leader.
“We are grateful that the NABC and Allstate are nationally recognizing what our community has know for years: Karl’s unique selflessness has an immensely positive impact on those around him every single day.”
Barkley’s award came as a result of his work on sustainability projects involving Swarthmore’s athletics department and the Chester Community Improvement Project.
At Swarthmore, he led an effort to install automatic lights and motion sensors in the gymnasium and locker rooms at the Tarble Pavilion and other athletic facilities. He also paved the way for recycling bins to be installed on campus and the school’s first “Zero Waste Game.”
“I just wanted to make the general facilities more efficient,” Barkley said.
With CCIP, a community-based organization in Chester, Pa., he came up with a plan to create a subsidiary, for-profit winterizing and retrofitting business to create a profit stream for the CCIP’s actual work, which is creating affordable housing through public-private partnerships.
Barkley’s interest in sustainability came from a talk Swarthmore men’s soccer coach Eric Wagner gave to the school’s Student-Athletes Advisory Committee, of which Barkley is vice president.
“He talked about sports sustainability, and it just grabbed me,” Barkley said. “He had a ton of examples to show us, and it was easy after that. We got it started on campus and at several other schools.”
Away from campus, Barkley also volunteers at the Arch Street United Methodist Church, preparing and serving meals to the homeless, and has also volunteered at several area elementary schools.
He’s even convinced some of his teammates on Swarthmore’s basketball team to join him.
“It’s just a couple hours every other Sunday,” Barkley said. “I guess that’s what makes it so much fun for me – not only have I gotten to meet other people through the church, but I’ve gotten the other guys doing it as a group.
Barkley has maintained a 3.55 grade point average and is on track to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“We just have a way of getting things done at Swarthmore,” he said. “We have a different standard for being busy. If you don’t have five different things going on, you’re not actually using your time wisely.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.