Rupp Classic sees 'mature' Barbour

Antwain Barbour helped lead Wabash Valley to a 104-79 rout of St. Catherine on Friday in the Rupp Classic at Lexington Catholic, but not with one of his typical high-scoring outbursts...

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Fans who packed into Lexington Catholic seeking an eye-popping offensive performance from Antwain Barbour may have admitted to being a bit disappointed upon leaving the last game of Adolph Rupp Classic here Friday night.

Barbour, the junior college All-American and Kentucky signee, scored only four points in Wabash Valley's 104-79 rout of St. Catherine, but left a favorable impression on perhaps the two most important people in attendance.

Barbour at his best: in transition. He led Wabash Valley with six assists on the night.

His current coach and his future coach.

"I talked to (UK coach) Tubby Smith after the game, and he was pretty excited," said Wabash Valley coach Mark Nelson, citing Barbour's 'team-first' attitude and impressive overall floor game which included seven rebounds and six assists. "I know he felt that Antwain needs to continue to develop his whole game... and I thought his leadership tonight was as good as it's been."

Barbour attempted only seven shots in the game, making two from inside the arc and coming up empty on three from long range. But he had only eight "touches" in the first half, and spent most of the second half setting up his teammates. Foremost was Herman Davis, who was able to turn in a career-high 34-point effort in front of a large crowd largely due to the unselfishness of Barbour, who had a career-low scoring night.

"There were a lot of people here, a lot of hype, and I was a little bit worried about Antwain having the pressure on him to produce and put on a show, but I thought he handled himself extremely well," Nelson said. "I thought he played really well. He did so many good thing for us. He passed the ball really well... Antwain was on the distributing end tonight. Usually he's on the other end of it dunking it.

"He averages 17 a game, and he's such an explosive scorer, but he said tonight he knew he didn't have to, which is impressive in this atmosphere. When they're announcing you as 'University of Kentucky signee Antwain Barbour,' a kid might say he has to shoot the ball 25 times and try to score every time he gets the ball, but he didn't do that. That shows me a high level of maturity. You don't get that too much in junior college, especially from sophomores."

Barbour floats for a short jumper along the baseline.

"It was fun getting to come back to Lexington and play for my home crowd," Barbour said. "I think I played well, helped my team win...  Everybody wants me to score points, but the game's more than scoring points.

"I'm not going to get too many open shots this year the way people are keying on me."

Barbour, who helped lead the Warriors to the NJCAA national championship last year and was the Kentucky Sweeet 16 MVP two years ago in leading Elizabethtown to the title, played with Team USA in the world games this past summer. That helped him earn the reputation as one of the nation's top young players, and keyed speculation that he may make the jump from junior college to the NBA.

But in November, he decided to follow the road back to his homestate when he signed with the Wildcats.

"It feels good to have that out of the way," he said. "Now I can just go out and play and have fun."

Through 13 games for Wabash Valley (12-1), Barbour is shooting 61 percent from the floor and 67 percent at the foul line. He's hit only 15 of 58 from 3-point range --- and area he's normally much better --- but has been spending extra time in the gym in an effort to get his outside shooting on track.

"Antwain's in the gym a lot shooting a bunch of jump shots trying to improve his outside shooting," Nelson said. "When he gets in a zone and shoots it from outside, you can't guard him because he's so good to the basket and such an explosive player."

In addition to his shooting, Barbour says he's been busy refining his overall game. He's bulked up to 190 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame.

"I'm stronger, rebounding better," he said. "My dribbling and passing is a lot better."

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