After leaving Ukraine and the professional basketball team MBC Mykolaiv that he played for due to the threat of Russia invading the country, Auburn native Troy Barnies flew to the country of Norway to be with his wife.
The days leading up to the decision were scary, he said.
“A week before I left, (President Biden) said in a statement that all Americans have 24-48 hours to leave the country,” Barnies said. “That was mind boggling. I can’t tell you how many calls and messages I got telling me to either leave immediately or ‘stay safe.’ And that was on a constant basis.”
After Barnies and other foreign players forced a meeting with management about wanting to leave Ukraine, the team was told “Everything will be fine,” according to Barnies. And Barnies’ teammates were telling him that they didn’t think anything was going to happen. Still, he was worried.
Three days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Barnies was told by his agent, Raivis Ušackis, that he had to start finding tickets out of the country. So, Barnies left for Norway the next day to live with his wife, who is from the country.
“I had two plans,” Barnies said. “One, if nothing happens in a week or two, my plan was to return to my team and finish the season in Ukraine. The other was if something does happen, speak with my agent and see what’s the next step.”
Barnies said the two weeks with his wife in Norway were “awesome,” but the former Edward Little standout wanted to find a new team to play for.
That’s when Pärnu Sadam of the PAF Estonian-Latvian League came calling for Barnies’ services on the court.
“The Estonian league extended their transfer period for two more weeks to help Ukrainian players and us foreigners leaving the country,” Barnies said. “The team I signed with, Pärnu Sadam, was in contact with my agent and we got an offer. Took it knowing that a lot of jobs right now were not going to be available and this would be great to finish a season somewhere.”
Barnies expects to be playing into May and is excited for his new opportunity.
“I’m excited about this team,” Barnies said. “They need help fighting for a playoff spot in the league, as well as my experience of playing against Estonian and Latvian teams before. The Estonian teams play in their own country as well as a dual league with Latvia. I’ll be traveling between countries for games. I’m excited to help the team as much as I can towards the end of this season.”
Barnies’ first game with Pärnu Sadam is Friday against RSK Tarvas.