2022 Beata Netemeyer Alumni Award recipient inspires others

May 27, 2022
Luke Barnwell delivers his acceptance speech for the Newman Beata Netemeyer Alumni Award.

Since graduating from Newman University in 2013, Luke Barnwell has used his passion for basketball to inspire youth while sharing his faith.

Barnwell serves as the head basketball coach at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita and has been recognized as the national Naismith Boy’s High School Coach of the Year for two consecutive years — the only coach to do so.

He’s also the recipient of Newman’s 2022 Beata Netemeyer Alumni Award.

Though Barnwell doesn’t like the extra attention of being nominated for awards, he is humbled and grateful for the blessing the honor brings.

“We’re the mustard seed,” Barnwell said in his acceptance speech. “We’re in a small little Christian school, and the Lord has blessed it. I don’t stand here as like some, you know, crazy good coach or anything like that. It’s truly just being a vessel and opening our doors to what God wants.”

He added, “The only way you can explain it is that God’s had his hand all over it. So thank you.”

Video: Luke Barnwell Acceptance Speech

Passion for basketball

Barnwell fell in love with the sport of basketball as a child, and he considers it a privilege to call it his career. But perhaps what he enjoys most about his coaching job at Sunrise Christian Academy is living out his strong Christian faith through his actions. In his words, “Discipleship toward Christ is often caught — not taught.”

“The pillars of our program are the things that he asked us to do as his followers, which is be of service, be grateful for things, be humble and be passionate about what you’re doing,” Barnwell said. “We pray before every game and every practice, but we really want to live morally in a way that Jesus is seen, and we want our program and our players to, as we travel and play games, also show that as well.”

As a recipient of the Naismith Boy’s High School Coach of the Year award, Barnwell feels deeply honored.

Luke Barnwell with his family members at the 2022 Alumni Awards and Beata Benefactors Banquet at Newman University.
Luke Barnwell with his family members at the 2022 Alumni Awards and Beata Benefactors Banquet at Newman University.

James Naismith invented the game of basketball when he was tasked with creating an indoor sport so athletes could stay in shape during the winter months. Naismith also founded the University of Kansas basketball program in 1898.

“I grew up driving down Naismith Drive and going to KU games, and that’s where he coached,” Barnwell said. “So Naismith always meant more to me. It was extremely humbling to even be in the same breath as Dr. Naismith.”

What excites Barnwell most is that he gets to make a difference in the lives of his students — one of whom is “Tum Tum” Nairn — a Sunrise graduate who is carrying forth Barnwell’s example of discipleship.

“The guy is leading Bible studies with NBA draft picks, and he’s on the forefront of an ESPN magazine article, leading Bible studies,” Barnwell said. “When we say educating for time and eternity or empowering students to impact culture, I think that’s exactly what we do. And it’s not an everyday thing that you walk in and say, I’m going to do this mission today, but it’s just the Lord’s work that we’re able to be a part of.”

Video: Luke Barnwell – 2022 Beata Netemeyer Award