NBPA: Barnes, The Competitor

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- For Harrison Barnes, basketball begins at the NBPA Camp at 6:20 a.m. When the doors to the John Paul Jones Arena opened, he was there.

"They have an early morning workout session so I was trying to get in before that," said the 6-6 wing forward from Ames (Iowa).

Barnes's work ethic is well known, and thus the story of his early morning start morphed into talltale status among the camp staff this week, who relayed a version that had Barnes standing outside the arena in the dark until the doors were unlocked.

Barnes laughed at how the tale was stretched, but nonetheless, no one was up earlier and no beat him to the gym in the morning.

"You just always want to work on your skills and find time to improve, so you want to be there to get your shots up," he said.

That dedication to his game is founded in his competitive drive. Ever since he first tasted the highest levels of high school success, he's been driven to keep winning.

"That's part of the game of basketball," Barnes said, trying to downplay his unparalleled level of competitiveness. "Since winning that state championship and going undefeated, you don't want to accept anything less than championships and being the best. Winning becomes contagious after a while and becomes an addiction that you just always want to win and never want to lose."

Those who've watched Barnes on the circuit this spring saw the competitive streak. He doesn't always get the best of his elite matchups, but he certainly doesn't back down. And while he'll downplay it, saying all the right things about team and winning – there are few who are more media savvy – he has made it clear behind the scenes that he wants to face the best whenever possible.

And he did just that on Friday, going head-to-head with Michael Gilchrist. It was the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2010 against the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2011.

"Mike's a good basketball player, really takes it to the hole strong," Barnes said. "It was good to play against him and see how good he really was."

And Gilchrist is as good as it gets when it comes to an explosive wing. Barnes probably didn't win this battle, but after a rough start, he recovered quickly and learned from the experience.

"It shows you the holes in your game, but for me I like to really focus on my defense and adapting to players better," he said. "At the beginning of the game Mike was [scoring] some buckets, but once I adjusted, it made it more difficult and he started to struggle a bit. I just need to adapt to different players quicker."

As the top-ranked rising senior in the country, Barnes's recruitment has been much discussed, and speculation is already nearing the saturation point. Yet his recruitment still has a ways to go. As soon as the NBPA Camp wraps up here in Charlottesville this weekend, Barnes will head down to Chapel Hill, N.C. with his parents.

"They have a university camp, so I'll be playing in the first two days of that and then a campus visit after that and I'll go back to Ames," he said. "I haven't been there before, so it'll be my first chance to see their campus and see what they are all about up close."

The consensus among those close to the situation are that Duke and Kansas are the teams to beat. This will be the Tar Heels' chance to make their pitch.

"I've seen a number of schools already, so there's a level that they are at and we'll have to see where Carolina stacks up with them," Barnes said. "I assume it'll be impressive, from what people have told me before."

There's been speculation – if not an assumption – that Barnes will visit Duke before he leaves the area. The Duke staff's serious involvement pre-dates UNC's interest and Barnes has made two prior trips to Durham that have cultivated that relationship. When asked about whether he'd stop by to see the Blue Devils, Barnes responded, "The focus of this trip is North Carolina." And when pressed on the issue? "I have no more comment on that," he said.

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