Coming to Marquette his freshman year, Barro was seen as little more than a project. He certainly possessed the measurables coaches look for: 6'10", 230 lbs., and flyswatters for arms. He certainly wowed many scouts with his performance at the 2002 Nike camp, which resulted in looks from the likes of Illinois, UNLV, DePaul, Auburn, and Iowa State.
But Barro never played organized basketball before signing the letter that brought him to Milwaukee. A member of the basketball team his senior year at Chicago Julian, he was unable to take the court due to IHSA rules prohibiting exchange students from participating in interscholastic contests.
In his first season, he suffered from inconsistent play as well as inconsistent minutes. The young center averaged two points and two rebounds per game as a freshman.
But as his experience grew, so did his game. As a sophomore, Barro raised his scoring average to 4.4 points/game and his rebounding average to almost three per game. His best performance came in Marquette's final game of the season, a loss to Alabama in the first round of the NCAA tournament in which he posted a then-career high 13 points to go along with three steals and three blocks.
This season, Barro has once again exploded on the national stage. The Golden Eagles fed him early in nationally televised wins against Texas Tech and Duke. Barro went for seven points and seven rebounds against the Red Raiders, and the next night he tallied eight and five while playing stellar defense against standout Blue Devils sophomore Josh McRoberts. He followed that with 10 and 13 in a win over Valparaiso. Then came the game against Northwestern State.
Currently, his season averages are 8.8 points/game and 8.1 rebounds/game. One of the biggest changes in Barro's play this season has simply been his confidence.
In the opinion of head coach Tom Crean, "Ous, over time, has changed the way he sees himself. He now sees himself as producer and not just a player."
Crean also cites the big man's work ethic as a reason for his success, saying, "He works very hard, loves to learn about the game, [and has] tremendous energy. There is rarely a time he's not the first one in the gym."
It has been a very long time since Marquette had a true post player break the 20 point mark. Steve Novak officially took the court at the forward position, but his place was always out on the wing. One might have to go back to Amal McCaskill in 1997 to find an MU player with numbers comparable to what Barro is tallying right now. McCaskill averaged 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds his senior year before becoming a second round draft pick of the Orlando Magic.
Barro's development makes Marquette even more of a force to be reckoned with. The potential for the Golden Eagles to establish true inside-outside balance in scoring unleashes the myriad potential of their offense.
Said point guard Dominique James of the Golden Eagles' conference foes, "They better be ready. Having that threat down low like Ous is going to open it up for our guards."
James also added, "We need that type of threat from the post in order for teams to respect us."
Barro's improved production on the boards can also take pressure off of Marquette's guards. Let it not be forgotten that James and Jerel McNeal were the top two returning rebounders entering the season. And the Golden Eagles rely on that rebounding to start the most publicized part of their offense this season – the break.
"We're at our best when we let our defensive rebounding control our offense," said Crean after Friday night's win.
Now the biggest thing for Barro is to achieve consistency. In the championship of the Blue and Gold Classic he scored only 5 points and allowed North Dakota State's Andre Smith to let loose for 26 as Marquette suffered their first loss of the season.
As Crean reminds, "He can continue to get better."
**Jeff Wolf is a freshman majoring in Advertising.