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The Rise of Harrison Barnes


The 'rise' of Harrison Barnes, you say? Hard to imagine that there could be any kind of significant 'rise' for the #1 incoming freshman in the class of 2010 and a pre-season All-America selection to boot. Perhaps the title should more accurately read, the "Evolution of Harrison Barnes," because that's exactly what he's done as a basketball player this season: evolved.

Nationwide expectations were sky high last October, as Barnes was anointed as the first freshman ever to be picked onto the All-America team. Whether that honor more accurately reflected the state of talent in college basketball or the sheer force that experts predicted Barnes would be is up for debate. What's not up for argument is how initially unprepared Barnes was for the limelight and pressure that chases around the country's top players. Nobody questioned the kid's work ethic. Everyone agreed that his dynamic skill set was off the charts. Somehow though, when game time came, the 6'8'' Barnes appeared tentative shooting the ball, often uncomfortable to flash his talent, and hesitant to hit the boards hard.

 

A buddy sitting courtside for the early season UNC Asheville-UNC tilt texted me saying, "Dude, Barnes isn't that sweet. Great jump shot but what a passive player. Much more impressed with Henson and Zeller."

That was 2010 Harrison Barnes.

Since ringing in the New Year, Barnes has recorded double-figures in scoring in 14 of 16 games. He's doing it efficiently too, shooting over 44% in nine of those contests. Barnes has been visibly more aggressive on the boards, and in a frontcourt featuring two premier rebounders, Barnes is grabbing almost 6RPG from the small forward position. 

Barnes' numbers give us only a glimpse of his evolution. His confidence has skyrocketed as he has become the Tar Heels go-to man in crunch time. Last night, with seconds ticking away and Carolina down 2, Coach Roy called for an isolation for Barnes at the top of the key. In one of the toughest road environments in the ACC, Harrison calmly dribbled out front, 10..9..8... before crossing over and nailing his fifth game winning shot of the season. Iceman...

For a guy who was chastised on this very blog just two months ago, Barnes now appears primed for the next step to stardom. And no, I'm not talking about the upcoming NCAA tournament.  I'm talking Duke @ UNC, 9pm EST on Saturday night. Some version of Harrison Barnes will be there. Will it be 2010 Harry? Or cold blooded 2011 Harrison?