Decision Day for No. 1

Special to IC
Posted Nov 13, 2009


AMES, Iowa -- National Signing Day for basketball took place on Wednesday, but the most momentous event of the seven-day early signing period is Friday.

Friday’s significance is especially big for six college programs hoping to land the next freshman to lead their squad through the NCAA tournament to the Final Four and possibly a national championship.

Evan Daniels will be providing unprecedented coverage all day Friday from Ames. Stay tuned …
See, on Friday, Harrison Barnes, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound senior small forward, will make his announcement during a 4 p.m. (Eastern) press conference at Ames (Iowa) High.

Barnes, who was unranked two years ago, now has a dominant grasp of Scout.com’s No. 1 spot. A smooth wing with high-level athleticism, Barnes is an equipped scorer with a deadly jump shot from mid to long range.

But what makes Barnes, who patents his game after his favorite player Kobe Bryant, the best is his drive and work ethic. Known for 6 a.m. workouts and consistent gym time, Barnes is the ultimate gym rat, says Scout.com’s National Recruiting Director Dave Telep.

“Lots of kids talk about working hard but they don’t have any idea what its like to play before the sun comes up and strengthen your deficiencies,” Telep said. “Harrison is not afraid to pay it forward with hard work. At the NBA Camp he beat the security guard to an optional 7 a.m. workout.”

His hard work paid off last season, as he lead Ames to an undefeated season and a Class 4A state title, averaging 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds along the way. He also drew the eye of coaches from the top programs in the country.

After a thorough slate of unofficial trips over the last year, Barnes was able to whittle his long list of suitors down this summer to just Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and Iowa State, and he used the last couple months to take official and unofficial visits to those final six candidates.

After taking his trips, Barnes set his press conference date and since has left the college basketball community wondering whom he’ll suit up for when the balls roll out for the 2010-2011 season.

Duke was the early on favorite, and for good reason. Mike Krzyzewski and his staff of recruiters scored campus visits from Barnes on three different occasions and were among the first schools to put an offer on the table and make him a serious priority.

The school down the road from Duke – North Carolina – entered the Barnes sweepstakes later. In fact, UNC was the last school of the bunch to offer Barnes by a few months. And to Barnes, that mattered. But that didn’t stop Roy Williams from recruiting him.

The Heels made up ground, secured a spot in Barnes’ final list and put themselves in great position after bringing him in during their alumni weekend for his official visit, which included meeting Michael Jordan.

The Kansas Jayhawks have been considered a favorite since Barnes’ recruitment began. Like Duke, they made him an early priority, but where they hold an edge on nearly every school involved is proximity.

Compared to the other schools, except Iowa State, Lawrence (Kan.) is closer to home, and is a relatively short drive that would allow his tight knit family to watch the majority of his college games.

Oklahoma has their advantages as well. The Sooners head coach Jeff Capel, a former standout at Duke, relates to Barnes as well as anyone because of his young age and the experiences, and Barnes has acknowledged that.

The Sooners pitch has been about leaving a legacy. Capel, who recently coached Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, targeted Barnes as the guy that could leave an imprint on his basketball program.

The last school Barnes visited – UCLA – is as appealing as anyone his list. Especially considering the Bruins have more titles than anyone in college hoops and are a program filled with tradition, wins and former NBA prospects.

Barnes returned from his visit a week and a half ago, and like his other trips, he raved about what the Los Angeles-based program had to offer both on and off the court.

Iowa State is the hometown school involved in Barnes’ recruitment. While most that have followed Barnes’ recruitment haven’t considered the Cyclones as a serious threat to land the nation’s top prospect, there are plenty of reasons for him to attend ISU.

First, his mother – Shirley – is an employee of the school and works in the music department. Plus, attending ISU would give Barnes a chance to play in front of his friends and family, while continuing the success he’s built in Ames.

Unlike most recruitments, Barnes has kept things close to the vest. A very methodical and smart kid, who nearly has a 4.0 GPA, he has been careful and tactful in his approach to the recruiting process.

As we approach announcement time, only three people know Barnes’ destination – Shirley, his sister Jordan-Ashley and himself. Many have guessed and many are curious, but no one knows. Telep calls his recruitment one of the “all-time greats.”

“Harrison could very well have entered the World Series of Poker and made the final table,” Telep said. “Anyone who claims they know, is doing one thing – proving they have bad sources. This one was straight lockdown mode.”

The predicting, guessing and wondering will end today just after 3 p.m. local time (CST), as one school will score a big time prospect, with a heck of a work ethic and a unique story to match.


Related Stories
Barnes Blog: Live at Ames HS
 -by ScoutHoops.com  Nov 13, 2009
Bullock, Marshall Sign with Tar Heels
 -by InsideCarolina.com  Nov 12, 2009
Barnes to UNC
 -by ScoutHoops.com  Nov 13, 2009

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