By Tolulope Oladele
This year, Harrison Barnes, the sophomore forward from the University of North Carolina is leading the Tar Heels to another NCAA title run. Despite struggles, Barnes will still be a notch above the rest of the 2012 NBA Draft pool if he decides to enter. Even with Kentucky’s shot-blocking specialist Anthony Davis projected as the number-one overall pick and scouts drooling over the potential upside of University of Connecticut’s Andre Drummond, Barnes will have the greatest impact immediately at the next level.
Davis was a guard in high school until a six-inch growth spurt enabled him to bang and finish in the post with his guard agility. The knock on Davis is his strength at 6’10 and 220 pounds: he will be easily bullied and taken out of his comfort zone at the NBA level due to his lack of bulk. While Drummond has been a force as well on the defensive end, he is still very raw on offense. Barnes, a 2012 All-ACC first-teamer, has all the makings of a superstar at the next level now.
At 6’8 and 230 pounds, Barnes has the prototypical body for a small forward in the NBA. His above-average athleticism allows him to explode and finish in the paint. He utilizes screens effectively to get off his silky smooth jumper shooting (.451 FG% and .382 3-point FG% so far this season). Barnes can dominate games for stretches because he is a constant mismatch for the defense. Moreover, he has the ability to post up smaller, quicker defenders and beat bigger defenders off the dribble. Also, because of his size and strength, he is an effective defender and great rebounder.
However, Barnes’s strongest trait is his work ethic and good attitude. Last year, if he had entered the draft, he would have been a guaranteed a top-five pick, but he instead elected to come back to UNC because he wanted to win an NCAA title. During the summer, he took part in Chris Paul’s Elite Guard Camp to work on his ball-handling skills. In that time, he sparred well with two-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant in an exhibition game. Additionally, he regularly holds early morning workouts to work on his game, which shows how determined and motivated he is about his championship goal.
Coming from high school, Barnes was one of the most hyped-up prospects in recent memory. It proved to be his Achilles heel in his freshman campaign, during which he averaged a pedestrian 15.7 ppg and shot a lowly .421 FG% from the field. The problem was that Barnes was over-thinking on offense and, when he was struggling, he would take ill-advised mid-range jumpers instead of going to line to get himself back into games.
Of any prospect entering the 2012 draft, Barnes has the least to work on, yet he will no doubt work the hardest given his motivated nature.