Friday, January 21, 2011

Harrison Barnes: Will He Ever Live Up to the Hype?

Posted by CoHoops DeAnte Mitchell
I've seen unusual slumps watching College Basketball but none more interesting than the one in Raleigh.

Harrison Barnes, a 6-foot-7 freshman, at the age of 18 was the only kid his age to every be dubbed an AP Preseason All-American.

He was also rated the No. 1 recruit in the 2010 recruiting class that produced players such as Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Jared Sullinger, and Terrence Jones.

Many people were prepping for a Carmelo Anthony-like run, and compared Barnes to the most clutch player in the game, Kobe Bryant.

Thus far, Barnes hasn't surpassed the 20-point mark and has one double-double on the season.

Many tend to point the finger at the lack of veteran leader. Similar to football, the chances of you winning without a veteran quarterback are slim.

Early-on in the season, critics hit Barnes hard with overrated tags, and even heard the chant as he shot free-throws against Illinois.

Coach Roy Williams often defended his highly-touted freshmen saying "If you've got enough [gumption] to make somebody a big hero like that, admit that you were wrong, and stop picking on the kid," referring to ESPN's hypocritical analysis on the freshman.

"It's silly if you're going to anoint the guy and three weeks later crucify him, that's ridiculous. He didn't ask to be voted first-team pre-season All-American."

Throughout this whole process, impressively, Barnes has ignored the critics, steadily improved and could be on the road to redemption.

In the North Carolina Tar Heels (13-5, 3-1 ACC) most recent game, Barnes nailed a three to put the 'Heels up late, and also nailed the game winner to keep North Carolina a perfect 55-0 at home against Clemson.

During ACC play, Barnes has stepped up in key situations in all games. More impressively, Barnes scored 10 of his 12 points with 10-minutes left to play to help the 'Heels rally back and hand the Hokies their second loss of ACC play.

Lately, Kendall Marshall has stepped up and continues to improve. He currently averaged 5.5 assist per game during conference play in 20-minutes of action.

Not to mention, Marshall has improved his assist-to-turnover ratio to 3.23 during conference play. With Marshall taking over the starting role, I expect Barnes to be more productive on both ends of the floor.

Going back to what I said earlier, the chances of you winning without a veteran leader are slim. Barnes is a gifted player, by all means, but you can't expect him to be spectacular when the point guard doesn't play his role.

Marshall isn't a veteran leader, just yet, but he's a nice compliment to a five-star forward like Barnes.

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