The stage was set.
With the pep band, cheerleaders and entire Ames (Iowa) High student body looking on, Harrison Barnes, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound senior small forward, ended his highly publicized recruitment by placing a video conference call to the winning coach.
"Coach Roy Williams?" Barnes asked, as Williams, surrounded by his North Carolina team, appeared on the video screen.
Williams responded, "Can you hear us? We've got the whole team here."
"I can see that," Barnes replied with a laugh.
"Coach, I know that you're in practice right now and I need to go sign my letter of intent but I just wanted to let you know that I'll be joining you guys on the squad and I can't wait to play with you guys," Barnes responded.
"All right!" Williams said.
Barnes then sat down and signed his letter of intent, bringing an end to a drama-filled, closely followed recruitment that included a number of the nation’s finest programs – Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Oklahoma and Iowa State.
After taking official visits to five of the schools and an unofficial trip to the hometown school – Iowa State – Barnes set his press conference date last week.
"I have loved getting to know the players and coaching staff at North Carolina," Barnes said during the press conference. "I'm so privileged to be able to go play for Coach Williams. I think he's a great teacher of the game. More than that I like the academic plan they had for me."
Barnes is the type of rare prospect that many -- including Scout.com’s National Recruiting Director Dave Telep – believe has the talent to impact a championship caliber team his freshman season.
“I think he can make an impact for a team looking to win the whole thing,” Telep said. “He sharpens everyone’s mental focus, ramps up the intensity and creates high expectations for himself and the program.”
As a freshman, not many would have predicted this.
At that time, Barnes was a 6-foot-3, 14-year-old basketball player playing for a small town school. Barnes was unranked, unknown and undeveloped. But slowly that changed.
“I’d be lying if I said I knew [he would be this good], Ames High basketball coach Vance Downs said. “We just knew that he was really good. At an early age we knew that he wasn’t going to have to pay for his college education, but did we know that he was the best player in the nation? No. I’d be lying if I said I knew that.”
So how’d he get there? Well, a growth spurt helped, but it was his gym rat nature that led to his jump to the top spot in Scout.com’s rankings.
“He’s passionate about working hard and he’s coachable,” Down added. “He’s got a work ethic second to none. He’s such a polite young man and so appropriate at all times, but when it comes to game time it’s like a switch turns on. He’s as competitive as any kid I’ve ever been around."
Watch the announcement ...