Koch Bar, a freshman international student from South Sudan, is mostly know as the towering 6-foot-11-inch center for the Bradley basketball team. But one thing people don’t know about Bar is that he is also an aspiring artist.
“You never see a tall, 6-foot-11-inch guy walking around with art supplies and books,” Bar said. “It seems funny to people.”
When Bar came to the U.S. to play basketball during his sophomore year of high school, he had no intentions of pursuing art. Instead, his first focus was learning English.
“[I started speaking English] when I got here. It was difficult when I was back home trying to learn English because there was nobody I could talk to, and you need to practice,” Bar said. “But here you have no choice – you have to speak, you have to go to school, you have to communicate with teachers [and] you have to communicate with teammates.”
While Bar originally came to Bradley on a basketball scholarship, he soon picked up an art major to pursue a passion he’s had his entire life.
“[I first got into art] a long time ago, when I was a little kid,” Bar said. “My older sister and older step-brother draw, so I used to take their drawings and copy. They taught me how to draw, and that’s how I got into mastering art stuff.”
Bar said many people are surprised to find out he’s not only a basketball player but also an artist.
“I see how people look at me, like, ‘Wow, you do this?’” Bar said. “[Lots of athletes] are communications majors and want to do communications or TV, but they see me differently … I believe [my passions for art and basketball are] even, especially when you feel like you’re getting better in both.”
Bar has spent a great deal of time at Bradley honing his basketball and art skills – with improvements he said he notices every day.
“With basketball, you start seeing yourself becoming a good player,” he said. “[With art], I never went to school and took a drawing class or an art history class. I didn’t have expectations for it, but all the classes that I have [at Bradley] I feel like I’m getting better in, and I’m seeing a lot of good people in there.”
Bar said he hopes to play basketball professionally in the U.S., but he is also looking into a career in art back home.
“I’m working now on [graphic] design,” Bar said. “I want to be a designer, so I’ve been learning … [South Sudan] is still a new country, so finding a job in graphic design will hopefully be easy … I’ll have the chance to be the guy to create stuff and logos for companies. There will be a lot of opportunity for me to do that.”
In the meantime, Bar said he looks to improve his skills both on the court and on the canvas.