One-on-one with NCAA all-time steals leader Chastadie Barrs

Chastadie Barrs became the NCAA's career steals leader last week. Photo courtesy of Lamar Athletics.
Chastadie Barrs became the NCAA’s career steals leader last week. Photo courtesy of Lamar Athletics.

Lamar University guard Chastadie Barrs is having a season most players can only dream about. Offensively, she is respectable, shooting 40 percent from the field, 27 percent from behind the arc, and a modest 64 percent from the free throw line. She stands out because she makes her living doing the dirty work.

Few players can affect the game with their defense, but Barrs is one of them. The senior is the reigning and three-time Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year. She is the second Division I woman with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, and 500 steals, after only soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Ticha Penicheiro. And last week, Barrs became the NCAA’s all-time leader in steals, grabbing No. 632.

A jack of all trades, Barrs is clearly a master of one. She currently averages 14.8 points per game, 6.2 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and a mind-blowing 6.2 steals per contest. She possesses a skill set quite like no one has ever seen in basketball, which will make her invaluable in the professional ranks.

When did you first pick up a basketball, and how soon did you know it was for you?

I first started playing when I was only four years old. It runs in my family. My mom played in college and my grandfather played. I guess it was something I wanted to try and something I was passionate about. I always knew the game was for me because I was good at it initially. My mom didn’t really allow me to quit. She coached me throughout my toddler and preschool years. I enjoyed it, so I just stuck with it.

Who were your teachers in the game, and how did they influence you?

My mom mostly taught me the game and of course some coaches. She played in college at UNT. She taught me the ropes. She coached me up until middle school. She influenced everything that I know about the game now. Of course past coaches – Jason Terry, who used to be with the Dallas Mavericks – he coached me as well. I played for his travel ball team in middle school. He influenced me as well.

Were you always defensive-minded?

For the majority of my career I have been. It was one particular big game in travel ball where my defense was one of the main reasons we won that game. Ever since that one game where I kept stealing the ball over and over again it was like, okay, this is something I’m going to be good at and something I want to focus on. Ever since that travel ball game I’ve always focused on defense and made it the biggest part of my game.

How did you learn to steal the ball so deftly?

[Laughs] I don’t even know. My mom always told me to stay with my opponent and try to figure out what her move is going to be, study her game to see what her counter move is going to be, and what she wants to do with the ball. That kind of helped me on the defensive end to know how to get steals. It’s timing and determination. I know that defense is a big part of basketball and one of the most important parts. I just focus on that because I feel like if you can defend somebody, you can win if you stop them from scoring.

Did you set goals for steals at any point in your high school or college career?

No. I was named Defensive Player of the Year in high school, as well. As far as goals are concerned, coming in here when I was the first freshman to get the Defensive Player of the Year award in the Southland Conference. From that point I set a goal to try to get it every single year. I’ve done that thus far, so hopefully this year I can keep that going. I wanted to break the record, as well. Ever since I’ve known that there was a record to be broken, I always strove to break that record with my defense.

Is playing defense fun for you?

It is [laughs]. I’m not going to lie, it is. I do like it more than offense. Everybody enjoys scoring and focuses on that, but I like the fact that defense is something that no one really tries to focus on anymore. I’m glad it’s something I’m good at because I’m bringing more attention to that realm of the game. It’s fun for me because I like the looks on the faces of girls that I steal the ball from. Everybody doesn’t want to dribble the ball because I’m defending them. I enjoy it because it’s an important part of my game that I’m determined to master.

How did you get to Lamar?

They recruited me in my junior year of high school when you’re allowed to talk to college coaches. They recruited me along with a lot of bigger schools like USC, Tulane, A&M, and USF. I got into a car accident in my sophomore summer. I didn’t play my entire junior year so I dropped a lot of those bigger schools due to that. Lamar actually stuck with me throughout the process of my thumb being broken and not being able to play. They were a DI school and when I visited it felt like home to me, so I said, “why not?” I always had the option to leave if it didn’t work out. I tried it out and it ended up working perfectly for me. I stuck with them because they were loyal to me.

How have you changed as a player and a person during your time as a Cardinal?

Well, I’ve matured I think in the game and outside of the court. My coaches have improved my offensive game as well being here. I used to not look to score. I would get all of my points off of steals and focusing on assists and rebounds. I wasn’t an offensive threat but I’ve become one since I’ve been here. I’m getting triple-doubles now. They helped me mature in that way. I’ve learned a lot from coach Harmony, coach Miles, and all the coaches here because they all have experience. As far as basketball is concerned, they taught me a lot about maturity, leadership, and accountability which will help me later on in life outside of basketball.

If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

I would know more about the recruiting process, but if anything I would probably try to give myself more exposure at a younger age and I don’t think my work ethic was as strong as it is now. I would definitely tell myself to put in more work. I was always the faster kid or the more athletic child, so I didn’t have to work on my skill level as much when it came to shooting and the fundamentals of the game. I would say, “don’t worry about anything, just go out there and play, and also create more of a work ethic outside of games because it can go a long way.”

At what point did that work ethic kick in?

College, to be honest. I stepped into a big role in my freshman year as captain and one of the better players on the team. I realized in college you can’t just be a one-side-of-the-ball player. I had to work on my game. I realized after a while once I kept on going to the gym how much it approved my game as a whole. I would say college, but I’d also say my senior year in high school. I had a chip on my shoulder with everybody who dropped me (out) of the bigger schools. I pushed myself harder and harder to prove them wrong to show what they missed out on.

What is next for you with basketball? Is the WNBA or playing overseas a goal of yours and also, what would you like to do after your playing career is over?

Most definitely I want to play ball professionally. I have been placed into mock drafts for the WNBA. That’s something I do want to do. I would love to do both. If I was to get drafted I would love to play for three months for the WNBA and of course go overseas once that season is up. If not the WNBA, I do want to go overseas and continue to play as long as I can. After basketball, I wouldn’t be opposed to coaching. It’s not something I really want to do, but I think I’m good at that as well. I coached a few younger girls in the summer time whenever I had the opportunity to. I would go into coaching. It’s a little stressful, but I wouldn’t mind it. If not that, I want to work with any job that’s focused in sports, whether it’s broadcasting, marketing, or an agency. I just want to be in something that has to do with sports because that’s really my passion. It’s been my passion since I was a kid.

Is ball life?

[Laughs] Yes, it has been. I’ve missed plenty of pivotal moments for basketball. It has taken over most of my life. In college you really see that ball is life when you don’t get a spring break and things that other kids might get. It definitely is life, but it’s worth it. Like my coach always says, after this I’ll leave debt free. Some of my friends will leave with debt, but I won’t. It’s definitely worth it. It is life, but it’s not really a job because I enjoy doing it. I love it and it’s brought me this far. It is life. I don’t mind it being life, either.