Ousmane Barro, Patiently Waiting

Hidden at Julian High School on Chicago's South side is the biggest question mark in Marquette's basketball future. 6'10 Ousmane Barro has been patiently waiting for two years for a chance to play. Recently I had a chance to take in a Julian game with "The Ooze".......

Marquette basketball coach Tom Crean went big with his 2004 recruiting class signing three players, all over 6'9 inches tall. This might be Crean's best recruiting class since he has been at Marquette, but that remains to be seen. There are many questions that need to be answered before this class can be considered as such, and Marquette fans will have to wait patiently to see exactly how good the next class will be.

They have already seen some glimpses, as 6'9 power forward Ryan Amoroso from Burnsville, MN and 7'0 center Mike Kinsella from Minneapolis are off to great starts for their respective teams. But there is still one mystery...

Hidden at Julian High School on Chicago's South side is the biggest question mark in Marquette's basketball future. 6'10 Ousmane Barro has been patiently waiting for two years for a chance to play. Recently I had a chance to take in a Julian game with Ousmane. It wasn't hard to spot him when he walked into the gym, but shy and quiet, he said hello to some classmates and headed up to the top of the bleachers on the visiting side, and that is where he sat – last row in the corner. Barro admits he doesn't attend many games, "It hurts to watch, I know I could make a difference if I could play."

Barro, nicknamed "The Ooze" by his friends, first came to Julian High School as a foreign exchange student a few years ago. The native of Senegal comes from a large family, consisting of his parents, grandparents, uncles, three brothers and three sisters, but he decided to pursue his dreams in the United States. "It was hard to leave", said Barro, "but I wanted to get out – to come to America."

Back in Senegal, Barro was like most kids, he was a soccer player. "I really only started playing basketball a year and a half before I came here." Barro arrived at Julian and was living with Julian coach Loren Jackson. That was fine with Barro, and the two got along well. "Coach Jax is great. I owe him so much. He makes me work very hard, but he also let's me have my freedom."

That relationship had some harsh consequences however, as the Illinois High School Athletic Association ruled Barro ineligible to play basketball because he was living with his coach. "It was so hard", said Barro, "I can't even explain how bad it felt". Frustrated and wanting to play, Ousmane was off to Kansas, where he was going to play junior college ball, but he never enrolled. "The plan was to get my GED and then play at Seward." But Barro decided he didn't want to use up his eligibility in the Juco ranks because he felt he could play at a higher level. Instead Barro decided to take some community courses to improve his English.

After finishing up the language courses Barro returned to Senegal and played for the under 19 national team. "I played well, and our team was pretty good. We have improved. People would be surprised at how good the competition is." Still wanting to pursue his dream of playing basketball and attending college in the United States, he returned to Julian High School to finish school and graduate.

Coming to Marquette

Being a bit shy, Ousmane didn't talk much, but that all changed when he started talking about Marquette. There were many schools recruiting him, and in the end he selected Marquette over UNLV and Iowa State. There were several reasons why he decided on Marquette, the biggest was head coach Tom Crean. "He was the first one to recruit me when I came to the United States, right over there", said Barro, pointing to the Southeast corner of the gym, "We were playing and I looked at him and he smiled at me. It wasn't long after that that coaches wanted to talk to me, but he was the first one. He is a lot like Coach Jackson, he expects a lot out of you but he gives you everything he's got. The first time they recruited me it was mainly coach Crean, but the next time when I came back it was Coach Green. I like all of the coaches, and I can't wait to play there."

There were other things that impressed Barro and led to his decision to come to Marquette, specifically the Al McGuire Center and the University's future in the Big East. "The McGuire Center was impressive, and I saw it before it was done. When asked about the move to the Big East Barro said, "It will give me a chance to play against the best competition, and after the change it may be the best conference in the entire country."

Ousmane had mentioned that he really liked the team, so I told him that Tom Crean allows his players to vote on recruits after a visit, so they must want to play with you as much as you want to play with them. How does that make you feel? As soon as I said that, the biggest smile I had seen all day began to grow on his face. "I'm really excited to play with them, especially Dameon Mason. I already know him from AAU. Out of all of the basketball I have watched, the most amazing dunk I have ever seen was by Dameon, right there", Barro said, pointing to the empty court behind us. He is a lot of fun to be with. I also met the other recruits, (Kinsella and Amoroso) they were really nice, they're good guys, but I haven't gotten to play with them yet."

When it comes to playing time at the next level, many young stars do not realize that it may take a while to adjust, but Barro already knows how he will contribute. "I think I am more of a forward, but it won't really matter. With coach Crean I will have a role to play and it won't be a specific position." Ousmane admits that he has a lot of work to do, and there are several things that he needs to work on. "My strong point is my defense, but there is ways to improve. I need to work on my offensive and my shooting – and free throws." "Free throws?" I asked. "Yeah, I am about 70%, not bad, but should be better." Despite being an imposing figure, Barro also knows he needs to bulk up a bit. "I weigh 230 right now, but I have some time to work on that. There just isn't much time to lift weights with practice and schoolwork, and we don't have a nice of a weight center like Marquette's."

When it comes to his future "The Ooze", like many ball young ball players would like to play in the pros, but knows that he can't count on that, "I would like to play in the NBA, but if I don't make I want to finish school and get a good job. I don't know what I want to major in yet. There are so many choices and Marquette is a very good school. I just can't decide yet."

While I still haven't seen Ousmane Barro play basketball, I still came away extremely impressed. I have to hand it to Tom Crean, he has successfully recruited another talented basketball player that is equally as impressive off the court as he is on it.

With a nickname like "The Ooze", Ousmane Barro is sure to be a big hit with "The 6th Man", Marquette's student section.

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