Barnes Blog: Live at Ames HS

AMES, Iowa --- Evan Daniels is being granted unprecedented access as Harrison Barnes prepares to make his big announcement. Check back often as this blog will be updated frequently throughout the day with exclusive info ...

The Finalists:
Iowa State
North Carolina
(NOTE: Update stamps are local time, which is Central Standard Time. You will need to refresh/reload your browser to see the latest updates to this blog.)

4:25 p.m. -- After signing the letter of intent, conducting a live interview with ESPNU, a Q&A session with the local media, and spending some moments with family and friends, Harrison Barnes finished his day at Ames High on a three-way call with his future teammates and fellow 2010 signees Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. The main topic of conversation? Winning a national championship.

3:16 p.m. -- "Can hear us?" Roy Williams said as he appeared on the video screen. "We got the whole team here."

"I just wanted to let you guys know that I'll be joining you guys on the squad and I can't wait to play," Barnes responded.

3:14 p.m. -- It's Roy Williams. He's going to North Carolina.

3:13 p.m. -- He's going to Skype the winning coach right now (video phone call).

3:13 p.m. -- Going one by one through the schools. Oklahoma ... Kansas ... Duke ... North Carolina ... UCLA ... and Iowa State.

3:12 p.m. -- He's reflecting on the recruiting process: "Be true to yourself and take time to smell the roses - and remember that this decision is your own."

Barnes takes his seat
3:10 p.m. -- After thanking the community and friends, he thanked the media, and is now getting emotional talking about his family.

3:08 p.m. -- Harrison is reading a statement of acknowledgments and thanks.

3:07 p.m. -- Harrison takes the podium to a standing ovation.

3:06 p.m. -- Downs: "After today, get some rest because at 5:30 on Monday morning, we're going to get after it."

3:04 p.m. -- Coach Downs takes the podium, giving thanks to everyone. "It's been my great fortune to coach this man for the last three and a half years. ... Your hard work is matched by no one."

3:02 p.m. -- Cue Chicago Bulls intro song and in comes Harrison in a suit to a standing, cheering crowd.

2:58 p.m. -- Students filling the final minutes with chants for Iowa State and for Ames High. Six college logo placards are up on the table, beside the podium and Barnes will sit in the middle - with ISU, UCLA, UNC to his right and Duke, Kansas and OU to his left. He's seat between the UNC and Duke placards.

2:53 p.m. -- Pep band, check. Cheerleaders, check. Entire student body filling the gym to capacity, check. Big media turnout, check. Placards for each of the finalists, check (the ISU one got big applause). Now waiting for the man of the hour.

2:46 p.m. -- Cue the band ...

2:42 p.m. -- Barnes went into hiding at 2pm and won't return until the announcement. This gym holds 3,000 and is already more than half full. The last class period of the day at Ames hasn't let out yet.

2:39 p.m. -- Group of students are painted in all exclamation marks. To each his own, I guess.

2:36 p.m. -- Less than a half hour to go and this place is buzzing. Students have been streaming in and I've spotted gear for all six schools represented among the student body. The hometown school, Iowa State, is the most prominent.

2:25 p.m. -- Reminder, this announcement begins at 3 p.m. Central time, which is 4 p.m. Eastern.

2:09 p.m. -- Large media contingent is already here. I count eight TV crews set up (with five live satellite trucks parked just outside the gym doors) and there are a bunch of reporters lined up. Should be quite a scene when the student body, pep band and cheerleaders arrive. They're running highlights of the state championship season on the video projection screen. Less than an hour to go ...

1:43 p.m. -- I've yet to see any sign of nerves from Harrison. He's relaxed as can be. They just did the sound check in the gym and he was up there rapping and beatboxing.

1:24 p.m. -- Just saved my seat on the front row for the big presser. There are seat assignments on the floor; a handful for the Barnes family and Downs family.

Set up continues
1:10 p.m. -- The first Shirley Barnes (mom) sighting at the school just occurred. Met her and Harrison in the gym, as they were taking care of last minute details and the set up. It's quite a spectacle. Also met Jane Jurgensen, as well as Seth. And, no, they don't know his decision either. Less than two hours to go ...

12:50 p.m. -- In getting to know Harrison over the years, you get a window into how he's wired. For example, as a high school sophomore we wrote about him in January of that year. He certainly wasn't a national name but he was planning on becoming one. That winter he created his own "hitlist" of guys that were highly ranked that he aspired to play against. Guess it's time for a new list once he hits a college campus.

12:36 p.m. -- Just got a phone call: "What's the deal? Daniels we go way back. You got to tell me where he's going." I really don't know where he is going. I promise.

12:24 p.m. -- Downs and I discussed how Harrison's decision hasn't leaked yet and just how secretive it's been. "I know I don't know," he added.

12:15 p.m. -- Coach Downs on Harrison's impact: "He's had a major impact on his school, his community, his state and at times the Midwest. Wherever he chooses to go and if he hypothetically goes to a school out of state, when he leaves this community is going to feel that void. If he stays in town for school and leaves years later, he'll leave a void in this community, and I'm not exaggerating at all."

12:00 p.m. -- Harrison has been persistent that I have to meet Jane Jurgensen and Dennis Johnson, whom he refers to as D-Love. "You can't do a day in the life with me without talking to my two favorite teachers," he said. Will try to work that in, time permitting. Just met with Coach Downs for a while and now it's off to meet up with with Harrison (no word yet if Seth will be joining us). Three hours to go ...

11:51 a.m. -- The movie/TV lines keep flowing in. Lot of jokesters with my cell number. From Billy Madison and Saved By The Bell to now Old School. Just received this, "Go streaking from the quad and into the gymnasium while you are there." Sorry, I like my job.

11:40 a.m. -- Harrison on the Ames High community's thoughts about him possibly picking someone other than Iowa State: "Actually a lot of them do [want me to stay], but at the same time they'll be cool with where ever I decide to go."

Sneaking a peek from upstairs
11:26 a.m. -- One teacher, that Harrison says has been at the school upwards of 40 years, approached the 6-foot-7 wing and I and said, "There's the man of the hour." Barnes replied, "You are wearing your Iowa State blazer today. Wonder why?"

11:17 a.m. -- The cliche press conferences these days usually consist of the prospect coming out with hats representing the schools involved and them unveiling the decision by selecting the hat of the school of choice. But Barnes is planning something different. When asked to elaborate? "You'll see," he said.

11:09 a.m. -- Fourth period is Harrison's study hall. He was able to sneak out and snap a few photos with us out in front of the school. He also walked into the gym for the first time to check out the setup, sliding into the corner and claiming that he had to keep a low profile.

11:00 a.m. -- It's rare that a high profile recruit's announcement goes down to the wire without any leaks, but this has been a unique recruitment. Harrison talked to the head coaches of each finalist last night, but didn't give them any hints. As Dave Telep put it in our preview article earlier this morning, "Anyone who claims they know, is doing one thing – proving they have bad sources. This one was straight lockdown mode." (Decision Day for No. 1) Four hours to go ...

10:52 a.m. -- Barnes' first class of the day was choir. He told me that I wasn't allowed to be anywhere near the choir room. "I'm not Kyrie," he joked, referring to Duke commitment Kyrie Irving, whose vocal stylings from a recent performance in a high school play are showcased in a video on the Newark Star-Ledger's web site.

10:47 a.m. -- Kendall Marshall on Twitter: "Gettin close to the time when I figure out if I have another future teammate or not." (kendallmarshall)

10:38 a.m. -- First the Billy Madison line, now I'm getting Zach Morris references on my phone. During the later years of Saved by the Bell, Morris looked at least 28. I'm under that by four years! In fact Harrison told me this morning that I fit right in, "You are shorter and wearing a backpack." Thanks, I think.

Ames High's 2009 title hardware
10:30 a.m. -- Downs coached the Ames Little Cyclones to a 26-0 record last season and the 4A state championship, while Barnes earned some player of the year awards as well (see trophy case at right). The defense of the title starts next Monday with the season's first practice.

10:19 a.m. -- Just met Ames High basketball coach Vance Downs. He seems really excited about Barnes' announcement. Planning to sit down and chat with him at length in an hour or so. Shirley Barnes, Harrison's mother, says Downs was terrific throughout the recruiting process. "He handled it all great."

10:11 a.m. -- Good article this morning by my partner in crime, Dave Telep: "Don't expect any big name high school players to make their decisions on Friday as the stage has been cleared for No. 1 Harrison Barnes to settle in and make his selection. It will, however, be interesting to see what if any ripple effects Barnes' decision creates. (Onto The Next One)

9:55 a.m. -- While checking out the set up in the gym for the announcement I ran into Keonta, who plays on the freshman boys basketball team. His pick for the big announcement? "Duke," he said, showing his fan affiliation, "they are the best program in the country." Others, like Sally, are unsure. She does, however, think that Duke and UNC are the top two.

9:39 a.m. -- As I exited the office to check out the school's hoops hardware from last season, I asked if it was okay to leave my computer in the athletics office. Sally Matters, who is the Director of Sports Information at Ames High, said, "This is Ames, Iowa. Everything is safe here. No really, I'm serious."

9:20 a.m. -- When Harrison walked through the school doors this morning, a girl yelled at him, "You must be pretty good at basketball." The same girl asked me if I was his bodyguard for the day. Have you ever seen a 6-foot, 180-pound body guard? Me neither. When asked where she thought Harrison was going to college, she said, "He has to go to UNC or Duke. That's all I watch. He should try and go pro with (ISU star) Craig Brackins though. He's the best." Yes, everyone has an opinion today.

The stage is set
9:00 a.m. -- The announcement event is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. local time here in Ames (that's Central time, so 4 p.m. Eastern). I've been hanging out with the Director of Athletics at AMS, Judge W. Johnson. He says at least 25-30 media members are planning to attend. Everyone from sports talk show hosts, local TV stations and writers have called to say they are coming. He's expecting more to pop in. Six hours to go ...

8:46 a.m. -- Walking around this school is making me feel old today. Sure enough, I just got the following text from a college coach: "Have you ever seen Billy Madison?" Thanks for reading, Coach.

8:30 a.m. -- Before going to that first class, Harrison met up with one of his best friends -- Seth -- and said he had to go alone. Top secret stuff. "No press allowed," he harped as he walked to the hallway.

8:15 a.m. -- Maybe it's his focus on school and basketball or just the nature of his busy schedule, but Harrison doesn't seem to understand the publicity this is getting. He's a little surprised, if not overwhelmed, with the attention this decision has received. He and his mom just thought today's announcement would be covered by a few members of the local media, but I'm here and national TV got into the mix. "The pep band and the cheerleaders are going to be there," Harrison comments, with a surprised expression about the expected groups in attendance for this afternoon. "That's what Kobe had at this announcement to declare for the NBA. This is a little different, isn't it?"

8:07 a.m. -- Classes have begun, and Harrison is headed to his first of the day. Today's announcement was not what he cited for why he nixed the early morning workout. Rather, he says it's because he stayed up too late talking to college coaches last night.

8:00 a.m. -- Harrison's outfit for decision day? He's sporting Jordan gear, head to toe.

7:55 a.m. -- Just arrived at Ames High School on a chilly morning. First thing you notice when entering the school is that lots of people are sporting different gear of the schools Barnes is considering. The older man serving as a hall monitor of sorts, named James, is rocking a Kansas shirt. "It's just crazy around here," James says. "Everyone has been guessing, it's been non-stop."

7:42 a.m. -- "Everybody keeps asking if I got any sleep (last night)," Harrison says. "I don't think I've ever lost sleep over basketball. Just when we've lost."

Welcome to Ames
7:10 a.m. -- Getting ready to meet up with Harrison before his school day begins. I'll see how he's feeling and how excited he is about today - will be curious to see how nervous he is. He's handled his recruiting process unlike most kids and he's got one great poker face, so it'll be interesting to watch how he reacts to this big day.

6:30 a.m. -- The sun has begun to rise in Ames, Iowa, but Harrison Barnes is not where you'd expect him to be. The hardest-working high school hoopster in the country has decided to take a day off from his legendary predawn conditioning workouts. But he has a good excuse. Today is one of the biggest days of his life. In just under nine hours, he'll announce his college decision to a large audience at Ames High School and a far larger audience on national television. And I'll be fortunate enough to spend this momentous day with him.

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