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Former Catonsville High hoop standout recalls hard lessons in Be More!

Marlon Barbour a self-described 'scrapper, brawler'

By Craig Clary, cclary@patuxent.com

4:30 PM EST, December 21, 2011

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On the basketball court for Catonsville High during the 1990-1991 season, Marlon Barbour played with the intensity of a caged lion ready to devour whatever got in its way.

"I was the warrior, the meat and potatoes, the scrapper, the brawler," said Barbour, who was the senior center on a Comet squad that fell in the state championship game. "At that time, I didn't recognize my gift and ability to orate."

That gift turned a life of turmoil, from ages 11 to 21, to one where, at age 36, he has written a book titled "Be More! The Struggles and Successes of My Life"

Barbour, came up with the idea for the book while working at Bethana, a national Human Services facility that deals with youths who grew up like Barbour did — in group homes or foster care.

"When I started working for Bethana, that's when the light went on and I sort of realized that the reason a lot of things happened in my life was because I was looking more for money rather than looking at the strengths, abilities and talents in my own personal life." Barbour said.

That career now includes giving motivational speeches and presentations all over the country at schools, juvenile facilities, foster car programs, prisons, halfway houses and drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities.

The book chronicles a tumultuous life that began as one of six kids raised by his single mom in Baltimore City.

One of his life-altering changes was brought to light in the first chapter, titled 'Faith.'

Barbour wanted more money than his mom could provide, so he states, 'I chose the streets, in which at age 10 and 11 years old, I sold heroine and cocaine and sometimes stayed out for weeks at a time.'

Eventually this led to him and his sister being placed in the care of the Department of Human Services.

Still, he became involved with some older boys, who stole a car and headed north before the older boys ultimately deserted him and he landed in a Boston jail for the night.

It was one of the several incidences of bullying and abuse referred to in the seven chapters of the 54-page book.

The book also contains photos highlighting his struggles and successes, including his early days at the Children's Home in Catonsville, and his triumphs on the basketball court.

"What people didn't understand (was that) playing basketball at the energy level I was playing, I was expressing two things — my ability to play an organized structured sport while I was living a very disorderly and a very dysfunctional lifestyle on the home front," he said.

It was on the Catonsville varsity that Barbour played for coach Art Gamzon, the 1991 Baltimore Sun Coach of the Year, who became "like a father" to the youngster.

When Barbour, now a Birmingham, Ala. resident, was in Catonsville promoting his book a few months ago, he spoke at the Children's Home with Gamzon in attendance.

"He gave a speech that gave me goose bumps," Gamzon said. "I think it's an incredible story. He is reaching out and trying to tell people to not give up, because he didn't."

Gamzon used food as an incentive for the 6-foot-3 inch Barbour to score and rebound in double figures, and the promise of a treat from McDonalds or Pizza Hut often helped him deliver.

After a fight with a rival from a neighboring boys home, Barbour transferred to another facility in Fallston and attended high school there.

"My main goal and focus was to get back to Catonsville High School, so I could end my basketball career successfully with teammates that I knew could and would help me get to the state championship," Barbour wrote.

Eventually, he was adopted by Saundra Owens, whose son, Teron, played for the 1991 state finalists and the 1992 state champs.

With Gamzon, Saundra Owens, who he calls "Mom," and Teron, stabilizing his life, Barbour was able to help lead the Comets to 25 straight victories, before falling in the state championship game to DuVal of Prince George's County.

In the 83-61 state semifinal victory at the University of Maryland, College Park's Cole Field House, Barbour scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Now Barbour can reflect on his accomplishments and the players and coaches who helped guide him during a troubled youth.

"Basketball was a life-saver for me, just like it was for many people that grew up in inner-city environments," he said.

To obtain a copy of the book visit marlonbarbour.com, e-mail hopeuniversal@yahoo.com or call 205-915-5805.