By Jack Williams
Georgia Tech’s Nina Barlin is a winner-in more ways than one. She’s busy these days scoring threes as a basketball point guard and perfect 10s as a cover girl. Three cheers for versatility!
A sophomore from Katrineholm, Sweden, Barlin has helped guide the Yellow Jacket cagers to a 3-0 record in opening games of the new season. Along the way, she scored a career-high 22 points, lifting Tech past Mount St. Mary’s for the championship of the Tech/Atlanta Marriott Northwest Classic.
Barlin, however, may have caused the biggest buzz when she was selected recently as one of Atlanta’s 50 Most Beautiful People by Jezebel Magazine, a publication which highlights upscale living in Atlanta. Barlin wound up in the magazine layout alongside such people as movie actress Julia Roberts, singer Kenny Rogers, Braves’ baseball player Reggie Sanders-and Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes, whoever in the world she may be.
Accompanied by her coach, Agnus Berenato, Barlin attended a Jezebel Magazine photo shoot that turned out to be something straight out of Hollywood. In the magazine layout, Barlin had been decked out in leather pants, high heels and a bikini top.
“It was a compliment to have been chosen and it was a lot of fun,” Barlin said, “but I was uncomfortable at the photo shoot. The clothes were not me, and I didn’t like the makeup. Neither did my coach. Modeling is not me.”
Modeling, however, is really nothing new in the Barlin family. Nina’s older sister, Susanne, models part-time while attending college in Sweden.
It is athletics, however-not modeling-that really defines the Barlin family. Nina’s father, Rolf, is a former soccer coach and her mother, Anita, has been a swimming instructor. Nina’s brother Stefan is a professional soccer player in Stockholm and her younger sister, Lena Marie, has followed in Nina’s footsteps by playing on the Swedish National Junior basketball team.
It was on the Swedish National team that Nina first stepped into the basketball spotlight. She helped pace the team to third place in the European championships in 1998. She also was a driving force on the Swedish team that captured the championship of the Nordic countries.
Barlin began playing basketball on her school team as a 10-year-old student. She actually became involved in sports in track and field when she was five years old and rose to a No. 3 ranking in Swedish long jump competition before deciding she enjoyed team sports more.
The young lady from Sweden wound up at Georgia Tech because she became acquainted in her homeland with former Tech basketball star Kisha Ford. “Kisha was playing professionally in Sweden when we met,” Nina says. “She recommended me to Coach Berenato. Coach came to Sweden to see me play and later invited me to Georgia Tech on a recruiting trip. I fell in love with Tech and also love the City of Atlanta which offers so many choices.”
Barlin quickly put her basketball skills to good use with the Yellow Jackets. She started all 31 games as a freshman last season, dishing out 117 assists from the point guard position while averaging 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds. She helped pace the Jackets to an overall 17-14 record and all the way to the quarterfinals of the Women’s NIT.
Now as the new season unfolds, Barlin has high hopes Tech will be a major factor. The Jackets may learn a lot about that in the next 10 days when they face three straight games against nationally-ranked opponents. The tough stretch begins with a road game this Saturday evening at 5 p.m. at Mississippi State. The Jackets then face North Carolina State on the road Dec. 6 and take on Georgia Dec. 8 at the Cobb Civic Center.
“I like the tough schedule and am glad it comes early in the season,” Barlin said. “We will find out where we stand. I have confidence we will be a good team.”
Barlin says two players, in particular, are giving the Jackets a big lift-star guard Niesha Butler, who sat out last season with a knee injury, and Tamika Boatner, who has shown vast improvement in her sophomore season.
“I knew last season Tamika was an awesome player,” Barlin says. “She just was not mentally strong as a freshman. She has a whole different attitude now and is incredibly talented and athletic. All of us on the team, of course, know what Niesha can do. She is so valuable to our team.”
Barlin predicts a strong season for most Atlantic Coast Conference teams. “Duke definitely is the team to beat,” she said. “But so many other teams are very good-North Carolina State, Clemson, Virginia and North Carolina, for example.”
The Tech guard has two goals for 2000-2001. “Our top goal is to make the field for the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “My other personal goal is to play again next summer for the Swedish National team. I did not have an opportunity to play on that team last summer because I became very ill. I spent 10 days in the hospital with a lung virus. It was scary because doctors said some people die with that virus. I am fully recovered now, however, and will rejoin the National team in Sweden in May when classes end at Tech.”
Barlin has adjusted well to academics at Georgia Tech, majoring in international affairs. “I do better now than I did as a freshman,” she said. “At first, I had some problems taking notes in English. This year, it is easier because now I think in English.”
Barlin says she began studying English in the fourth grade, as is customary in Swedish schools. “Then in the sixth grade, Swedish students begin studying either French or German,” she said. “I speak three languages fluently-Swedish, English and German and also know some Norwegian, which is similar to the Swedish language.”
Barlin came up with a new phrase for the English dictionary recently. Here’s how it went:
The Tech women’s basketball brochure, edited by Sports Information staffer Melanie McCullough, highlights each Tech player in an evening gown, all set to go to the Big Dance-the NCAA Tournament. It is a striking lineup.
In personality charts inside the publication, the players answer a number of questions, among them ‘What is your favorite dance?’ Barlin’s answer: “The Typewriter Dance.”
In a recent interview, a writer challenged Barlin by asking: “What in the world is The Typewriter Dance?”
“I have no idea,” she admitted. “We were filling out questionnaires from the Sports Information Office and I turned to my teammates and said, ‘I do not know the names of American dances. The only dances I know are Swedish ones.’ My teammate Alex Stewart said to me, ‘Just put down anything. Put down The Typewriter Dance.'”
So, let’s set the record straight. Nina Barlin is quite a talent, indeed. She does score threes and 10s in her various pursuits. She is making her mark in the Georgia Tech classroom. It seems she is good at almost everything–except The Typewriter Dance.