Late December when Barnett stroked a series of 3's against rival Charlotte Christian, Cheeks was in the crowd, believed in what he saw and pounced on Barnett like a panther.
This week, the 6-foot-5 emerging senior selected the 49ers after receiving scholarship offers from Richmond, College of Charleston, Wofford and VMI. Numerous programs like Miami-FL, St. John's, Vanderbilt and even Kansas dispatched coaches to evaluate him.
Frankly, this moved quicker than anyone could have imagined. For a young man to enter his senior season with zero scholarship offers and now has an A-10 pledge in his pocket, was slightly overwhelming.
"The best case scenario was that we would hope for a scholarship, "James Barnett told Scout.com. We wanted him to have a chance to show his abilities and that someone would need his different talents.
"I think it took him by surprise how quickly it took off – how it changed from not being known to everybody recognizing him. There was a little pressure to perform knowing (college) scouts were in the crowd. There was some pressure."
Barnett's father cites Dec. 30 at the Bojangles Shootout as "the day it happened." Shortly after the game, Charlotte offered a scholarship.
"We wanted to be as close as we could to home and everything really fell towards Charlotte."
You've got to figure Barnett's best basketball lies ahead. A late-blooming wing shooter is never a bad thing. At 6-5 he's got the frame, the stroke and all he needs is the game experience to make another leap with his abilities. Believing in your talent and being confident on the court are two separate traits. When Barnett begins playing with consistent confidence is when he'll maximize his potential.
"I can see the confidence coming," James said.
So can the 49ers.