Scouting Report: Harrison Barnes

Inside Carolina's Eric Bossi reviews his notes from the road and compiles an in-depth scouting report on 2010 Tar Heel signee Harrison Barnes ...

    Harrison Barnes
    6-7, 210
    HS: Ames (Iowa)
    AAU: Howard Pulley
    Class of 2010

    Given his status as's top ranked basketball player in the high school class of 2010, Harrison Barnes needs little introduction to those who follow recruiting. But, it hasn't always been that way. In fact, there was a time between Barnes' freshman and sophomore years where one Iowa scout (who shall remain nameless) wrote me to question my scouting ability for including Barnes among my 25 players from the class back in August in 2007. "Barnes isn't even one of the top five players in the Iowa, much less a top 25 player nationally," said the email.

    The first opportunity I had to see Barnes play was during April of 2007 at the Real Deal on the Hill in Fayetteville, Ark. Passing through Bud Walton Arena on my way to lunch, I was drawn into watching the All-Iowa Attack 15-and-under team because of an impressive young wing making plays. As it turns out, that wing was Barnes and this is what I wrote during my initial viewing of him where I rated him as an Elite High Major prospect. "A good looking young wing with long arms, athleticism and a nice feel for the game, he's pretty complete for such a young player. He handles the ball fairly well, makes jumpers to 17 feet and is an excellent rebounder. Looks to have plenty of room to grow and is on his way to becoming a high level player if he continues to develop."

    Well known for his work ethic, there's no way to discuss Barnes strengths without first pointing out that he's a perfectionist who spends countless hours in the gym honing his craft. Mention that he can't shoot, and Barnes will hit the gym with a vengeance and come out smoking pretty 20-footers with regularity. Mention to him that he has trouble dribbling when double-teamed and the next thing you know he'll be splitting doubles on his way to the rim for dunks. Desire and effort like that can't be taught, it comes from somewhere deep inside. And even though he's blessed with ridiculous natural ability, it's that competitive fire burning deep inside that has to be Barnes' greatest strength.

    Taking a closer look at his game, an area that has always stuck out is how fluid and under control of his body he is in everything that he does on a basketball floor. There's zero wasted motion when he plays, allowing him to raise up quickly for jumpers, slice to the lane for finishes or stop on a dime and explode into a pull-up jumper from between 12 and 17 feet that has turned into a major weapon.

    Having played quite a bit in the post during the earlier portions of his career, Barnes also benefits from a well developed post game. He spins to either shoulder for turnaround jumpers on the baseline, uses fakes to his advantage and is unguardable in the high post. When the shot isn't there, he's also unselfish enough to find others and is a particularly good passer out of that high post area where he alertly fires the ball to open cutters on their way to the bucket.

    In addition to his well rounded offensive game, Barnes gives tremendous effort in other areas of the game. He's been a dominant rebounder at times and certainly is well above average on the glass for a wing player. Defensively, there's never been any issues with lack of effort and Barnes has almost always asked to defend the best player on the opposing team regardless of what position they play. Of course, that just goes back to that competitive fire to be the best that seems to drive every move he makes on the floor.

    As is the case with any player who has reached such a high level, you have to get pretty critical in order to find any weaknesses within his game. The easiest to identify would be his ball handling. While he's significantly improved in that area over the years and his handle is good for a small forward, he's still got some room for improvement. At times – particularly against double teams – he'll put his head down and over dribble a bit leading to turnovers. In particular, he seems to get into trouble when he attempts to use behind the back maneuvers to get past defenders. From observation, it doesn't appear to be an ability issue, but one of just settling down a little and understanding that a play can't always be forced.

    Although he generates good lift on his jumper, has a good release point and shoots a ball with plenty of arch and rotation, there's still a little room for improvement. At times, he's a little straight up and down in his shot set-up, but again this is being hypercritical of an elite prospect so it's not even fair to call it a "weakness".

    While he never shies away from defending another elite player, there's still some room for improvement on that end. There's no lack of effort, but he can be a little stiff and sometimes struggles to get all the way into a defensive stance and shuffle laterally. However, his excellent reach, fast hands and wiry strength often allow him to make up for any issues on that end.

    College Projection:
    To this point, Barnes has avoided any talk about how long - or, maybe more appropriately, how short - his stay in college will be. However, it's hard to envision him not being able to leave sooner than later if he so chooses. At his size, he'll likely play the small forward on the college level even though he projects as more of an NBA two. Then again, he's likely skilled enough on the perimeter that he could just as easily slide over and cause major matchup problems as a two guard with a ridiculous size advantage. With plenty of experience playing on the blocks, it's also conceivable that Barnes could even be deployed for stretches as a swift four man in some small lineups. Basically, he's a weapon that can be used in a variety of ways and his versatility should allow him to thrive in any type of offensive system.

    Final Thoughts:
    While there will always be naturally talented players coming along, those who blend hard work, citizenship, and a refined skill level with physical gifts as seamlessly as Barnes does are few and far between. His impact on the college level should be instant, and it should be quite significant.

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