Stiffs exclusive: How Will Barton and Bones Hyland went from friends to teammates to coaches


“The bond never changes, even though we are now opposites. He is still a big brother to me.

Bones Hyland and Will Barton have built a bond that will last forever, and although they are now on opposite sides of the court, last week at the Under Armor Elite 24 tournament they were able to share the same bench once. again, this time as coaches.


The Under Armor Elite 24 hosts the top 24 high school basketball players at an event in Chicago allowing them to showcase their skills in front of talent evaluators and even NBA players like Hyland and Barton. In an exclusive interview with Denver Stiffs, Barton and Hyland both mentioned how much it means to them to be part of such a prestigious event.

“For my part, I am very excited for this event. For future high school students. You see some of the talent and only the next generation of basketball continues to evolve. Hyland said. “It’s exciting for me, I can’t wait to see them come out and play in a beautiful setting and put on a show. So that’s big.

Hyland and Barton train at last week’s Under Armor 24 event.
Photo courtesy of Under Armor

Barton echoed the same, saying how excited he was “to see the next generation come out and improve” and “just to see them flourish and be able to do that with Bones and talk to these guys and coach. with him kind of just come full circle for us.

This is the first time the event has taken place since 2016, and it was Hyland’s first time at the event. For Barton, he performed in the event when he was in high school and had attended over the years. When asked who was going to be the head coach, Hyland pointed the finger at Barton, saying, “I’m not the head coach.”

Barton went on to describe his coaching style.

“I like to let them play. I tell them I roll the ball and tell them to go up and down. As long as we play defense [and] hustle I’m cool with that. The most things I will do is try to fuel them, get them excited to play, but I’m a laid back type of coach. Like Phil Jackson, I stay seated.

Both are first-time coaches, and you could hear the excitement in their voices to get back on the pitch not just together, but to help these up-and-coming players.

It all started in 2014, when Hyland and Barton met at another Under Armor event.

“I had seen Will on the sidelines of an Under Armor game. I was playing for We are One and Will had his team called Team Thrill and I was playing against his team. I didn’t know Will and he didn’t know me at the I was playing against him and going off a bit,” Hyland said.

“I heard him ask on the sidelines, [saying] ‘who was that kid?’” Hyland continued. “Those words stuck in my mind, because I knew it had to be somebody on the sidelines who’s like big or in the league or something… It was big just to hear those words from his part, because I worked so hard for my game to be recognized from an early age.


Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The two have stayed in touch ever since, as Hyland and Barton’s relationship grew stronger. Then came the final offseason in the draft, when the Nuggets selected Hyland with the 26th pick in the first round. Barton was a free agent at the time, but Hyland contacted him anyway the day after he was drafted:

“It was fun getting drafted by the Nuggets, but at the time Will was a free agent, so I didn’t know I had teamed up with Will. But, I called him the next day and I I’m like Will I know you’re a free agent and I’m not the type of guy that’s gonna interfere with what you got you know if there’s a bigger one out there take that but I was like you have a little brother here who was just drafted by the Nuggets It would mean the world to me if you came to play on the Nuggets and just showed me the ropes whether it was for two years or one year .

When asked if Hyland’s drafting influenced his decision to re-sign with the Nuggets, Barton said it definitely played a role.

“Certainly, once he came out and it got closer and closer to the draft – looking at the process – I knew for sure he was going to be a first-round pick. I didn’t know exactly when he would leave. I remember talking to our president of basketball operations (Tim Connelly) and he was asking me about him, and I was like ‘he’s got a real game and he loves it’, so I knew there was interest,” Barton said.

“Obviously I’m not in the front office but once they drafted him and we FaceTimed he understood that I had to do what I had to do and that’s a business but if I came back , he would love that,” Barton continued. “It played a part in my mind. Being in Denver for so long and business was perfect, so it all came full circle and a lot of moving parts came together.

Barton and Hyland train at Under Armor 24 event
Photo courtesy of Under Armor

The two are now on different sides after the Nuggets’ trade to the Washington Wizards earlier this offseason landed them Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but Barton certainly left his mark during his time in Denver. Barton is the Nuggets’ all-time three-point leader with 804, and has played an incredibly important role in overhauling the team’s culture in recent years.

Denver went from a rebuilding team to a title contender during Barton’s eight years, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. With the formation of the roster and the constant changes of the Nuggets, one thing has remained the same, and that’s how you could always count on Will “The Thrill” to show up and get going.

“I’m really big on being an underdog. That’s what I’ve been my whole career, and when I got to Denver, we weren’t good, people weren’t coming to games, so to see it from there and be a mainstay for to bring the team to where it is now — a playoff team every year, a contender, a team that made it to the Western Conference Finals — to be part of that race, that was special,” Barton said.

“Now the arena is so loud we get TNT games. I remember my first full year there, we had an ESPN game, they took us away. Going from there to where it is now to be one of the main parts of it and to be the oldest guy there, the 3-point record, things like that, and to leave my mark in that way is really special. If you’re going to leave somewhere, at less you left it and you made history and you left your mark. So I can’t really complain.

Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Barton leaves as the oldest Nugget, but the mark he left in Denver will certainly be felt for years to come. On the other hand, when one chapter ends, another begins and for Barton, honestly, it couldn’t have worked better with his exchange with wizards.

“To be honest, it was really special to me. As a kid, the Wizards were one of the teams that I said if I ever made it to the NBA, I would love to play just because it’s the thing. closer to Baltimore. I know my family, my mom, my brothers, my sisters, my nieces, my nephews, they can all come and see me play,” Barton said. “The whole city has really embraced me. people gonna come watch me play and just give me more action to go out there and just go hard and leave it all on the pitch when you know you have so many people behind you, admiring you, wanting just to see you perform at a high level.

“So I was excited about that. Obviously I’ve been in Denver a long time and it was hard to have a lot of special moments, but if I had to go somewhere it was one of the teams (Wizards ) on the shortlist.

Hyland is now tasked with carrying the torch that Barton left behind, but after what we saw in his rookie season, it looks like Bones is more than ready to take that step.

“I just showed people what you saw my rookie year, it’s not nothing.” Hyland explained what he is working on for next season. “I have so much to exploit that I’m going to show this coming season. It’s really something that I’ve been doing, moving from town to town playing games and showing people.

It really makes last week’s event at Under Armor All 24 even more special. A bond that developed in 2014 at an Under Armor event has come full circle eight years later. Even though they are no longer teammates, the fact that Hyland and Barton were able to share the same bench for one more week gave their time together a true fairy tale ending.