ESPN and Sports Illustrated magazines both recently published U.S. college basketball preview issues, and both put North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes on their cover.
The 19-year-old from Ames, Iowa, is expected to be the centerpiece for a North Carolina team that is rated a strong contender to win its sixth national championship.
Last year, the 2.03 meters tall (6’8″) Barnes became the first freshman ever named a preseason first-team All-America. The high expectations negatively affected his play during his first few months with “The Tar Heels” of North Carolina, and Barnes struggled with his shot.
But by the end of the season, Barnes became much more confident on the court, averaging nearly 16 points and six rebounds a game, and he led “The Tar Heels” to the final eight in the NCAA championship tournament.
“Between the beginning and end of last year there were a lot of inconsistencies,” Barnes told ESPN. “Playing at the level where I finished, for a whole year, that’s what I’d like to shoot for.”
Some basketball analysts thought Barnes would be shooting for a professional career this season, opting for the National Basketball Association, like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and other college stars did after their freshman seasons. But with the NBA still embroiled in a labor dispute between owners and players, Barnes’s decision to return to North Carolina is looking like a smart one.
Perhaps his biggest fan is his mother, Shirley, who cheered for basketball great Michael Jordan during his playing days. Her son’s full name is even a tribute to Jordan: Harrison Bryce Jordan Barnes. In 1982, Jordan clinched North Carolina’s second national title with a dramatic jump shot in the closing seconds against Georgetown.
In 2012, 30 years after Jordan’s heroics, Harrison Barnes would like nothing better than to follow in the footsteps of his mother’s idol and help raise another championship banner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Then, like Jordan, I think we can look for Barnes to launch his own NBA career.