Not surprisingly, Harrison Barnes has emerged as one of the most highly recruited players in the country. After all, what's not to like about the 6-foot-7 inch junior wing from Ames (IA) High?
Competitive on the court and in the classroom, Barnes has vaulted into the top five of the national rankings thanks to his versatile and smooth wing game. Capable of draining threes, pulling up for jumpers from mid-range or just driving through the defense for a dunk in traffic, he's a near complete player on both ends of the floor.
At the moment, Barnes is looking to be something a little more. He's setting the hype and potential distractions of a high profile recruitment aside as he and his teammates fight to win a state title.
"I'm try to be a leader out there," said Barnes. "I think to be a leader you have to stand up for what you believe in even if that's not the popular thing. Sometimes you have to get in a teammates face or stand up and just do something that a normal person wouldn't do."
In the midst of a 16-0 campaign, Barnes has decided to wait until after the season ends to discuss any specifics regarding his recruitment. He feels he owes it to himself and his teammates to focus on the task at hand and doesn't want any distractions.
One person who is impressed at how Barnes has handled all of the attention is his high school coach Vance Downs. He'd heard and read about his star wing exploding onto the national scene last summer. But, he didn't realize exactly the type of attention and interest that Barnes' recruitment would generate.
"It's surprised me, I'd be lying if I was saying it didn't surprise me," said Downs. "I did get some calls this summer after Harrison played extremely well in some camps that it would be coming so I did have a little bit of a heads up. Until you live it, though, it's a different thing."
Luckily, though, things have stayed under control and a lot of that has to do with the way Barnes and his teammates have handled the situation.
"I think it starts with the kid himself," said Downs. "We try to put some parameters in place to help that out but I think it starts with Harrison and he handles it extrememly well. He's very humble and he's very team oriented. The team around him handles that situation extremely well and it just works out. It certainly helps that they like each other."
Watched Friday night by USC assistant Bob Cantu, Barnes also has schools like Kansas, Duke, Iowa State, UCLA, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida and countless others knocking down his door. On top of that, every writer or scout with a computer and a working Internet connection has theorized about where he'll end up and to what levels he can take his game.
"I don't pay that much attention to the paper or all of the sites," Barnes told SCPlaybook.com. "I don't need somebody to tell me about my game. So, to me I stay away from it by just trying to get better and knowing who to listen to."
While his recruitment and future still loom large, Barnes is committed to putting all of that aside and remaining focused on that goal of a state title for the next month. After all, he doesn't think it's too difficult to put the hoopla aside for a group that has a chance to do something big.
"I think we have a lot of potential," said Barnes of his Ames High squad. "I think we have a lot of pieces that we need to just continue to put together. When we're clicking on all cylinders I think that we're going to be hard to stop."