North Carolina star sophomore Harrison Barnes
It's no secret that the 2012 NBA Draft will be one of the best in recent memory, and North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes is beginning to look like he can become an immediate star at the professional level.
He arrived in Chapel Hill two years ago with buzz that was near deafening, and rightfully so, after attaining 2010 USA Today National Player of the Year, along with many other honors that come with being deemed the best player in high school basketball.
While his first two seasons in college basketball haven't quite lived up to the enormous hype he generated during his high school days, he has consistently improved his game over the past year and a half.
Star Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis and Kansas junior power forward Thomas Robinson have stolen many of college basketball's headlines this season, which has left the 6'8" Tar Heel small forward out of the public spotlight for the first time in his young career.
This has left him in the perfect position to surprise many people if he decides to enter the draft at the end of the college season. Here are six reasons why Harrison Barnes will become an immediate star in the NBA, finally fulfilling the enormous promise of his basketball career.
If you are looking for the body and skill set of a prototypical NBA small forward, the prospect you should be looking at is the North Carolina star.
He is 6'8" with long arms, owning a wing span near the seven-foot range. His combination of height and length make it easy for him to grab rebounds with ease, while also giving him the ability to block shots and get in passing lanes on the defensive end.
He also has great mechanics on his jump shot, which has improved dramatically over the span of his two seasons playing college basketball. He is an above-average athlete who is capable of skying over defenders for slam dunks and is an explosive run-and-jump athlete.
His ball-handling skills are a work in progress, but is very fluid when handling the ball, and is always eager and willing to improve in the weakest areas of his game.
College basketball coaching legend Roy Williams has been sculpting the game of some of basketball's biggest stars over the course of his career. This season is no different with his young Tar Heel star.
The 61-year-old coach has almost 700 victories over the course of his coaching career at Kansas and North Carolina, and his list of accolades is almost endless.
He is the owner of two national championships, seven Final Four appearances, plenty of national coaching awards, and perhaps most importantly, he knows how to make good college players even better professionals.
Paul Pierce, Kirk Hinrich, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams, Drew Gooden, Tyler Hansbrough, and Wayne Ellington are just a few of his former players who have made a mark in the NBA.
Harrison Barnes is next in a long line of Roy Williams' college studs who will use the valuable knowledge they've learned under the amazing basketball mind of their college coach to make an extremely successful career at the professional level.
While Harrison Barnes is no stranger to high expectations, there's no denying that he had a tough adjustment period to the college game last season.
Before he even set foot on the Dean Dome floor, he was anointed the first freshman in college basketball since 1986 to be selected to the Associated Press Preseason All-American team. Expectations were that he would become one of the greatest Tar Heels to ever don a Carolina blue uniform, and he was receiving hype and praise that hardly any other freshman in North Carolina basketball history had to deal with.
However, as his freshman season rolled on, he began to settle down and his game started to shine. He did the same this season, and his game is steadily rising as we inch closer and closer to March Madness.
Hardly any other player in college basketball history has had to deal with as much scrutiny and hype as Harrison Barnes has had to at such a young age. After he takes his game to the NBA, he will be completely comfortable with expectations placed upon him by his future franchise, and the pressure to succeed should be minimal compared to what he has already dealt with.
While many young athletes enter the NBA draft with an immaturity and false sense of entitlement, Harrison Barnes is a rarity. He came to the college level with a resume that read more like an academic all-star rather than an athletic star.
The 19-year-old was a four-year honor roll student, was an Advanced Placement scholar, played the saxophone and was involved in the school choir, worked with the Ronald McDonald house, and even led a weekly Bible study during his high school days.
While none of these academic achievements may lead you to believe that he will be a star at the NBA level, they should at least show you the seriousness with which he takes his goals and dreams.
He wants to be a great NBA player, and he has a maturity that will put him at a level other potential draft picks simply aren't capable of reaching. He is a phenomenal basketball player who is an even more motivated person.
It's no secret that Harrison Barnes is one of the hardest working players in college basketball. He has the competitive drive and work ethic of a Kobe Bryant, a player whose work habits coupled with his natural ability have made him one of the most successful basketball players the game will ever see.
While I'm not quite ready to compare Barnes to the Los Angeles Lakers legend, there are definitely parallels between the two when it comes to their thirst to constantly better themselves in the game of basketball.
You can bet that the 6'8" Carolina star will set himself apart from the rest of his draft class pack with his amazing work habits and drive.
Harrison Barnes started his freshman campaign quietly last year, and consistently improved as the season wore on. He finished the year averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebound per game. He shot a solid 42 percent from the field, while also making 34 percent from behind the three-point line.
This season, his game is taking a similar trajectory as we head to the magical month of March. He has consistently improved throughout the season, and his current numbers are better than they were last year. He is averaging 17.7 points and 5.2 rebounds each game. He is shooting the ball much better this season, showing that his hard offseason work has paid dividends for his game.
He is shooting 46 percent from the field, while shooting a very good 40 percent from behind the three-point line. He is having this success while being the main target for opposing defenses all season long.
Look for him to have a big NCAA tournament, where he can put his offensive game on display for the eyes of the entire nation.