Posted 4-3-11 @ 8:25 p.m.
According to Marty Tirrell's Twitter, Harrison Barnes WILL be returning to the North Carolina Tar Heels for his sophomore season. Tirrell was the first to break the news during Barnes senior year of high school that Barnes would be committing to UNC. Tirrell says Barnes will make the official announcement on Tuesday.
For the first two and a half months of his freshman career, Tar Heel faithful could make a strong case as to why Harrison Barnes would spend another year in a North Carolina jersey. His performance didn't validate his hype, his lack of consistency made him a liability within the offense and his tentative play made him his own worst enemy, affecting his game more than anything opposing defenses threw at him.
For the past two months, though, all that has changed.
Because in late January, the Ames, Iowa native started showing why he was the No. 1 ranked recruit coming out of high school last year. He became aggressive, he looked to score, he assumed the go-to-guy role and his numbers finally started making sense. In a nutshell, Barnes became ready for the NBA.
But is he ready to leave Chapel Hill?
"That's not really something I'm thinking about," Barnes said in a post-game interview following UNC's Elite 8 loss to UK. "Just having my last two seasons end with championships...The last time I felt like this was my sophomore year. That's the only thing on my mind right now."
If Barnes returns to North Carolina, he will welcome in a top-tier recruiting class with (pending John Henson's return) the same UNC roster that made this Elite Eight run, minus Justin Knox. A recruiting class that, according to Scout.com, consists of the No. 3 overall ranked PF James McAdoo and No. 6 overall SG P.J. Hairston, both are five-star recruits. (Six of the top 20 players in this year's senior class are SGs.)
They'll be healthy, more experienced and ready for a Final Four run.
If Barnes returns. But chances are he won't.
Barnes has arguably been the most impressive freshman over the past three months in between his 18 points and six rebounds per game averages, a 40-point game and numerous game-winners. And according to NBAdraft.net., Barnes is projected as the No. 2 overall pick.
But is that enticing enough to leave the university he has wanted to play for ever since his childhood?
"I don't know (what they'll decide)," Coach Roy Williams said on his radio show Monday night. "I'm going to get some information for those kids from my friends the GMs in the NBA that I know well. And then I'm going to sit back and then tell them to tell me what they want to do. I will give them my opinion of what I think is best for them, but I want them to tell me what they want to do and allow them and their families to make a decision. I'd have a difficult time living with Ol' Roy if I tried to talk somebody into doing something in either direction," Williams said.
Barnes never wore the definitive label of a "one-and-done" player like the John Walls, Michael Beasleys, O.J. Mayos and Kevin Durants from years past. It was never assumed at any point this season that Barnes was a "for sure goner" after this year.
With that, there's a flicker of hope that Barnes will return. But it's only a slight flicker, barely illuminating any light, likely to poof out at any moment. Catch my drift?
Barnes, despite his eight straight points in just over two minutes in a late-game rally, and the Tar Heels fell to Kentucky on March 27, missing out on their 19th Final Four in school history by seven points. And unlike Jared Sullinger's pledge to return to school immediately following Ohio State's loss to UK, Barnes will probably take plenty of time with his decision.
So until then, we wait. UNC fans wait, the NBA waits and the fans of other teams wait. Because if it so happens that Barnes does return, UNC will be the likely favorite to win it all in 2012. But even if Barnes foregoes his sophomore year at UNC, the Tar Heels' future is looking very bright.
And so is Harrison Barnes'.