At the beginning of his freshman season, no player had as much to live up to as UNC forward Harrison Barnes. Barnes was labeled pre-season All-American. No freshman in the history of college basketball had ever garnered that title. The pressure, along with the bulls-eye on his back, made it tough for Harrison Barnes to live up to the accolades bestowed upon him.
That year, there were a lot of talented players in college basketball, but Barnes drew the most criticism. After watching him play in the summer league, I was one of those people. I watched him look unstoppable at times, and he was almost always able to get the shot he wanted against some pretty good college and pro competition. However, when his freshman season started, he looked like a fish out of water.
Defensively, he was as good as advertised, but offensively, he would just go missing for long stretches in games. What we didn’t realize was that he just wasn’t meshing with the point guard in the system. Barnes was only averaging about 11 points a game with Larry Drew II at the point.
Enter Kendall Marshall. Upon the entry of Kendall Marshall, Barnes started filling it up. He had a couple of 19-point games, a 24-point game, and in the ACC tournament last year, he became the first freshman ever to score 40 in an ACC tournament game. He went from the ultra stiff Barnes Bot, to the super smooth Black Falcon (a name that I cannot really get with).
This season, Barnes has, at times, showed everyone what he was capable of, but he hasn’t been as consistent as most would like. I remember during his rookie year, everyone kept saying be patient, but expectations were high, and Barnes was supposed to be the savior during his stay at UNC. This year, pressure on him to deliver is higher than ever.
As we have progressed through his sophomore campaign, Barnes has, at times, showed us that he may be worthy of that top player in the nation status that he wore before stepping on campus at UNC. His upside is immeasurable, and the more comfortable he gets, the more lethal he becomes. Barnes can do a lot more to help his cause (and justify all of the praise), if UNC wins a National Championship this year. Honestly there is no reason why they shouldn’t win it this season when they have seven first round draft picks on that team. (This year: Barnes, Marshall, Henson, Zeller… Next year Hairston, McAdoo, McDonald).
So if Barnes is what everyone says he is, it’s time to deliver. The fact that he can do it on both ends of the court makes him even more enticing. It’s put up or shut up time for Barnes and the Tar Heels. Let’s make that run memorable, guys, so I can party on Franklin Street until the break of dawn.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!
Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.