Last weekend, Harrison Barnes had the opportunity to trip from his hometown of Ames and check out Norman and the University of Oklahoma. Still in the middle of the official visit process, the 6-foot-7 small forward – and the nation's top hoops recruit – had yet to visit OU and was curious to see what he would find.
"I had been to several other universities before I'd been to Oklahoma so I tried to come in with an open mind and not be judgmental and not have expectations," said Barnes. "I just wanted to be looking to observe all of the information I could about Oklahoma."
Outgoing and intelligent, Barnes enjoyed getting to know the Sooners team and played a long round of pickup games on Saturday. He also got a chance to spend a lot of time head coach Jeff Capel and it's clear that Capel is a huge factor in Barnes interest in the Sooners.
"Coach Capel and I have a really unique relationship," said Barnes of the Sooners coach. "He's a lot younger than most of the coaches recruiting me. We can talk about a lot of different things.
"He was a player as well, at a high level university, we can talk about his playing experience. I think he has a lot to offer and is a big reason why Oklahoma is being as successful as they are."
Perceived by many as a football school, Barnes noticed that the everybody around the OU hoops program is working hard to build up steam and interest. As far as he can tell, it seems to be working too.
"I think that the guys there are really hungry," Barnes told Sooners Illustrated. "Everybody wants to win, everybody wants to succeed. They want to prove that they are more than just a football school.
"Talking to a lot of people on campus who weren't affiliated with any sports, they told me that basketball was starting to come on. I think it's starting to become balanced, but they know that they've still got some work to do."
At this point, Barnes has also visited North Carolina officially. He still has officials scheduled to Kansas, Duke and UCLA while hometown Iowa State will receive an unofficial visit. So far, he's been impressed with each trip.
"All the schools so far have surpassed my expectations," said Barnes. "They've really rolled out the red carpet, but it hasn't been as Hollywood as I thought it would be. That's good, it allows me to get real information and learn about the university. I also get to spend real, quality time with the players, the coaches and their families."
After originally planning to make a springtime decision, Barnes says that he'll pick a school before basketball practice starts on November 16th.
"I'm definitely still looking for academic excellence and basketball excellence," said Barnes. "I'm still looking at the on and off the floor, the community atmosphere. It's been a great process so far."