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It's hard to imagine any Tar Heel recruit having more hype to his name than Harrison Barnes. He was considered the nation's top recruit for 2010, smack-dab in the middle of the most attention-friendly era of recruiting in the history of college basketball.
Averaging 24 points and eight rebounds during his freshman season, Barnes led his Ames High School team to a 26-0 record and the 2009 state title. Calls and offers from coaches flooded the Iowa native.
Many saw his recruitment as a battle between Duke and North Carolina, giving the Barnes hype and even bigger boost. Coach Williams and Coach Krzyzewski even showed up at his house on the same day. By November of 2009—his senior year—Barnes committed to Carolina via a Skype call to Roy Williams.
Just when we thought the Barnes hype had reached its peak, it was actually just getting started.
With a field of reporters covering his decision, Harrison and his mother, Shirley Barnes, took the time to answer a slew of questions. That's when the world found out that Michael Jordan was the single-most influential player for Barnes.
According to the Chicago Tribune, his mother was such a big fan of Jordan, she taped every one of the Hall of Famer's games. As soon as Barnes was old enough to watch TV, she was feeding her son those same Jordan tapes.
That's what I grew up watching. They were my cartoons. I just always watched his basketball games, and through time it started to sink in. And then I really had a passion for the game.
Considering Tar Heel fans—and everyone involved in basketball, for that matter—are always keeping their eyes peeled for "the next Jordan," his comments only fed the frenzy.
Then he did the unprecedented.
For the second consecutive season, Barnes led Ames to an undefeated season and another state title. He averaged 26.1 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and 3.1 steals per game during his senior year in Iowa—as a known future Tar Heel.
On top of his team accomplishments, Barnes was also named the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year and earned co-MVP honors in both the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald's All-American game in 2010.
He was also given the nickname of "Black Falcon" by the folks at ESPN during the Jordan Brand Classic.
Harrison Barnes may have never lived up to the hype that followed him to Chapel Hill, but it's hard to imagine anyone could. He had an excellent college career, averaging 17.1 points as a sophomore before leaving for the NBA.
Jordan averaged 17.7 points during his three-year stay at Chapel Hill.
Comparisons to Jordan simply aren't fair for any player, yet somehow everyone falls under the spell as soon as the words "the next Jordan" are spoken. This is exactly why "the next" should never be used, whether it's applied to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or anyone else.
Alas, we all know it will continue happening. The hype train will forever be choo-chooing it's way down the modern recruiting trail, and Chapel Hill will continue being one of its most visited destinations.