Without even playing a minute in a college basketball regular-season game, North Carolina freshman sensation Harrison Barnes has already been touted as one of the five best players in the sport.
Today it was announced that Barnes had become the first freshman to ever be awarded with the preseason honor in the 24 years it’s been voted upon.
Rounding out the rest of the team were Duke’s Kyle Singler, who led the voting after carrying the Blue Devils to the national championship last season, Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen and Purdue’s Jajuan Johnson.
So is the reflection on just how talented Barnes really is or does it show us how poor the talent level actually is in today’s one-and-done college basketball environment?
The answer probably lies somewhere in between.
Barnes has been considered one of the elite recruits of the 2010 high school class for the better part of two years. It’s widely believed that he’ll head off to the greener pastures of the NBA after his freshman season, and there’s many who feel he has the type of talent to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
The 6’7" small forward comes to Chapel Hill after leading Iowa’s Ames High School to consecutive undefeated championship seasons and finishing as the top scorer in school history with 1,787 points.
He has received numerous awards and honors throughout his prep career and is one of the most decorated freshman to enter the college game in quite some time.
North Carolina fans believe he will be the spark that reignites their team’s flame this season after the Tar Heels performed so poorly a year ago, losing an astonishing 17 games.
Still, no matter how special of a player Barnes may or may not turn out to be, it can’t be a good sign for college basketball that there aren’t five players in the sport who could make a case for being more worthy of accolades than a young man whose sneakers haven’t graced the hardwood yet.
That’s not to say there aren’t some wonderful players who are worthy of attention spread throughout the country, but the fact is there just isn’t much elite talent left in today’s game of college basketball.
The only truly elite players are the freshman like Barnes, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Duke’s Kyrie Irving and other youngsters who are forced to say a quick hello to college basketball fans before making their NBA dream a reality.
You can endlessly debate whether or not the NBA age limit is right or wrong, that’s a different argument for a different time. But it’s instances like these where you realize that the rule certainly can’t be helping college basketball.
Sure you could say, well if there was no rule, players like Barnes and his predecessors like John Wall and Derrick Rose wouldn’t haven’t even made a pit stop in college basketball.
Is that so bad though?
We’re forcing these young men to come play at a level they want no part of and now we’re handing them accolades before they even step foot on the court?
I liked when Kevin Durant had to earn his All-American honors at Texas before making his leap to the NBA. Everyone was talking up Greg Oden at Ohio State and Durant came in with something to prove, and he sure did prove it.
What sets Harrison Barnes apart from equally touted freshman like Sullinger, Irving and other 5-star recruits? Sure, they all have the potential to be great, but they also share in the fact that not one of them has proved a thing on the college level.
If we’re going to force these youngsters to come play college basketball, the least we can do is let them earn their wings before anointing them the best in the game without anything to back it up.