"He's gotten better handling the ball," one college coach said. "He's the biggest guy on their team and he's improved. He's pretty good."
Barnes' high school coach, Vance Downs, concurs. "I think he's grown in a number of areas. The biggest thing we see is his maturity and the fact that he's willing to take over games. As a 9th grader he wasn't quite ready to do that.
"He's improved his ball-handling and perimeter play. His rebounding (7.5) is up and his scoring is up (17 ppg.)."
Barnes has plenty of room to expand his ceiling. A young sophomore, he won't be driving a car until well into the summer. Theoretically, he could be a freshman. Downs feels like he'll be a natural wing in college.
Speaking of college, did we mention that Barnes resides in Ames? That's right, he's miles from the Iowa State Cyclones campus.
Greg McDermott has made the short trip more than once to see him. Ditto for the Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Todd Lickliter. Wisconsin has been in a few times, Indiana State offered early and Purdue recently began tagging him.
At one point during the season the water cooler chatter had him committing to Iowa State. Downs said that's not the way he's reading the situation.
"I can just share with you that the family has not wavered for one second, from the very beginning. They've said they would keep the process open until into his junior season and not make a decision until then. I would have to believe they will keep their options open."
Last year, intern Drew Cannon conducted a study for Scout.com. He looked at over 600 Top 100 players and analyzed them geographically. It was determined that Wisconsin (81.8%) and Iowa (80.0%) were the two states that did the best job of keeping their Top 100 players inside the borders.
What does that mean? It means a player like Barnes likely has a natural allegiance to the in-state programs. Top 100 recruit Matt Gatens picked Iowa last year. Barnes will be a Top 100 recruit in his class and lives in the town the Cyclones call home. Just some food for thought.