Will Barton hopes to help the Wizards turn things around, while also giving back to the community

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When the Washington Wizards traded with the Denver Nuggets earlier this offseason, Monte Morris was the relative headliner as he would be slotted as the team’s starting point guard that has been a revolving door since 2017-18. As training camp approaches next month, it is growing plausible if not likely that 31-year-old Will Barton could start for Washington at small forward because of his knowledge of Wes Unseld Jr.’s defensive system that the Wizards struggled to execute last season. Hoop District caught up with Barton at a Back to School event he co-sponsored with The District Sports on Saturday at Johnson Middle School in Southeast D.C.

The 10-year veteran founded his WB5 Foundation in 2020 to provide hope, support, and opportunity to low-income and underserved communities in his hometown of Baltimore, then residence of Denver, and now latest home of Washington D.C. Barton draws on his own experience being raised by a single mother, Karen who is a co-founder of the WB5 Foundation, and overcoming adversity as provocation to lift up those in need by focusing on education, mentorship, and financial support.

“Motivation is to give back to the kids, the community, the single moms because I was raised by a single mom,” Barton explained his philanthropic inspiration. “Just to always give back, that’s always the most important thing. That’s the drive for me in everything I do.”

Shortly after officially being acquired by the Wizards, Barton partook in a basketball camp for young kids at Trinity University in D.C. A month later and Barton was already back in the community making an impact.

“One of my good friends Jimmy helped put all this together,” Barton explained about the Back to School event that distributed over 300 backpacks. “I wanted to partner with him so I could get used to the DC area. Come out and see the kids and have some fun.”

Growing up in Baltimore, less than an hour away, Barton shared with some kids that he was reminded of his childhood by the looks of the neighborhoods surrounding the middle school’s outdoor basketball courts. Some of the middle schoolers were curious about Barton’s personal life including cars that Barton found enjoying conversation. One player from the teenage basketball team The District Sports challenged Barton to a little one-on-one that the NBA wing half-heartedly missed two jump shots to the young man’s one missed turnaround trying to create space.

“Once I found out I was coming back to DC, which is close to Baltimore, not home, but very close, I was excited just to have my family, my friends being able to see me more regularly,” Barton shared. “I’ll be able to go back to Baltimore, give back to the community that I always give back to anyway and now integrate DC with it because it’s so close and got some of the same similarities. To me, I look at it like a win-win.”

On the basketball court, Barton sees himself as a versatile wing that seamlessly integrates into today’s NBA.

“I can do it all,” Barton responded when asked if he had to pinpoint his position. “I’m positionless so the way the NBA is going is great for me. If I had to just label me, I would say a 2-guard just because me personally, gives me a lot of advantages being bigger at the 2-guard. I’m more athletic, I can shoot the ball, I can make plays, but the 1, 2, and 3, I can play all three positions so it don’t really matter.”

Barton shared that the likes of Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, Delon Wright, and fellow Baltimorean Isaiah Todd reached out to him when he was traded to Washington. That plus his familiarity with Monte Morris and Wes Unseld Jr. from Denver should ease his transition.

“Monte, we’ve been in the backcourt together the last three years. We started with each other last year. With Coach Wes, he was in Denver when I came in. We kind of turned the thing around together and we’re looking forward to doing the same thing here in DC,” Barton optimistically foreshadows. “Coach just wants you to get after it on defense and compete. I think if you compete and understand what he wants out of his schemes, we’ll be successful. We just got to all buy-in.”

Following Saturday’s Back to School community event, Barton departed for Los Angeles on Sunday where the Wizards are holding an unofficial mini-camp that will run until Thursday.

“That bonding, that chemistry, we got a lot of new guys,” Barton explained the importance of such a pre-training camp get-together. “Just getting around each other, trying to get on the same page and what’s our goals for the season. Just hang with each other, being able to trust each other.”

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