Barnes Deciding To Come Back Sets The StagePosted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2011
For weeks there has been speculation that Harrison Barnes was thinking seriously about returning to UNC for his sophomore season so his announcement today that he was in fact returning should not come as a major surprise in the way that the announcement by Perry Jones shocked the basketball world, but it is still remarkable. Going back less than six months Barnes was the talk of the college basketball world as the first freshman preseason All-American and the consensus #1 pick in the NBA Draft. At the time it was a foregone conclusion that Barnes would spend a single season in Chapel Hill before taking heading to the team that won the NBA Draft Lottery. In between that period a funny thing happened that just might help save college basketball.
After a dismal start that included an 0-for-12 performance against Minnesota, Barnes was widely panned as a bust particularly with the emergence of Kyrie Irving down the road at Duke. Even after Irving’s spectacular season was derailed by a toe injury Barnes lingered in the shadows as other freshmen–most notably Jared Sullinger at Ohio State–stepped up to capture the nation’s interest. As the season progressed Barnes showed flashes of brilliance that reminded us all of why he was so highly touted coming out of high school and why a NBA team would surely take him with one of the first few picks when he decided to leave UNC. This was never more evident than his jaw-dropping 40-point performance against Clemson in the ACC semifinals. So despite his early struggles by the time the NCAA Tournament rolled around Barnes was still a likely top 3 pick if he were to enter this year’s NBA Draft.
The decision by Barnes to come back not only dramatically increases UNC’s chances of cutting down the nets next April and renders moot the premature projections about how great Kentucky would be next year it could also indicate a paradigm shift by young elite players as three players (Barnes, Jones, and Sullinger) who were top 5-level talents have decided to stay in college at least one additional year to hone their games for the future NBA riches that almost certainly lie ahead. Now it is possible that these three just happen to possess a certain set of traits that made them head back to school or that the potential NBA lockout spooked them into coming back for one more season (the latter is a more likely explanation). However, it is possible that the some of those in the next group of McDonald’s All-Americans, which many have argued is more talent-laden, could follow the lead of these three college stars and decide to spend an extra year or two (or three) on a college campus refining their games or (gasp) developing more as individuals. The decision by Harrison Barnes by itself isn’t enough to save college basketball, but one can hope that it is a sign of change that has the potential to do so.