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Player Profile: Harrison Barnes

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In the ramp up to the 2011-12 basketball season, Tar Heel Fan will be profiling key Tar Heels who will likely be major contributors this season. Today’s profile looks at wing forward Harrison Barnes.

Vitals

Number: 40
Position: Wing Forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 215 lbs
Year: Sophomore
2010-11 and Career Stats: 37 gms, 15.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 42.3 FG%, 34.4 3FG%

What Happened Last Season

Harrison Barnes came into the season the most heralded freshman in the history of freshmen college basketball players. He was named to the preseason All-American team and the assumption was he would average 20 ppg, win national player of the year and bring UNC back from the brink following a season in the NIT. Well, the last part happened but Barnes individual performance suffered early on(remember 0-12 vs Minnesota) before ultimately showing us flashes of what everyone expected him to do(40 points vs Clemson, multiple game winning shots.) After the early struggles, Barnes closed the season scoring 19.1 ppg and 45 FG% over the final 20 games.

Outlook For This Season

The same hype machine who dropped an 800-lb gorilla on Barnes' back last fall is cranked up again with much the same expectations. The difference is those expectations are at least founded in some tangible examples of Barnes playing 37 games on the college level. Barnes spent the better part of his summer working on his game, particularly his ballhandling since turnovers in traffic were a cause for concern last season. Heading into this season, Barnes will be expected to pick up right where he left off scoring 18-20 ppg to lead the #1 team on the path to the Final Four. Barnes' scoring both from the perimeter and in creating his own shoot will be crucial since it adds another dynamic to the offense. There is also that intangible "something" Barnes has which results in the "wow" play or a clutch shot. Barnes is a go-to guy who has the skill sets to take a game over. That is a nice option to have in a game where the team might be struggling overall at any given point.

Main Concern

In my opinion there two biggest concerns regarding Barnes is (1) that he overthinks or pressures himself so much he plays poorly and (2) in-game consistency. Barnes is a noted perfectionist and during the course of the game it is possible for him to complicate an easy play. John Henson pointed that out in this excellent piece on Barnes running in this month's ESPN The Magazine. Instead of making the relatively easy play, Barnes might do more than is needed. Last season with Barnes there was a tendency to disappear for stretches or play well in one half but not so much in the second. Consistency in his shot and scoring would make him even more dangerous.

Wish List

20.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 47 FG%, 36 3P%

If Barnes is to be an All-American as projected, scoring at least 20 ppg is almost a necessity. Barnes actually ended last season as a decent three point shooter(34%) so a mere two percentage point uptick in that is doable and likely though I would expect he ends up taking fewer perimeter shots in favor of drives to the basket and pull-up jumpers. Barnes needs to be dominant at times but with UNC's abundance of offensive firepower he doesn't necessarily have to be. It is a nice position for him in terms of pressure and a nice situation for UNC to know it is an available weapon in tough games.