Harrison Barnes today confirmed finally a popular rumor the last few weeks that he will return to North Carolina for his Sophomore year next season. Barnes will join Junior Tyler Zeller and Sophomore John Henson as returning starters to the Tar Heels. North Carolina’s starting backcourt of Freshman Kendall Marshall and Sophomore Dexter Strickland have also announced their return as well. The choice of Barnes return though has got to be the most shocking.
Barnes was listed as the #1 small forward in the class of 2010 and by most people the #1 overall player in the class. Despite a somewhat of an up and down Freshman season, Barnes would finish the year averaging 15.7 points (led team), and 5,8 rebounds a game. As well as being named ACC Rookie of the Year. He shot 42% from the field and 34% from behind the arc. He was unstoppable in the ACC tournament, including putting up a career high 40 points in an overtime win over Clemson.
Barnes continued to play well in the NCAA tournament as well. Raising his points per game average up to 21 points per game and his rebounds per game up to 8.2. Despite his level of play being risen to another level, the Tar Heels fell to Kentucky in the regional final. Barnes would score 18 in the UK loss but struggled from the field slightly. Shooting 7-19 from the field but a very poor 2-9 from three-point land.
In a statement Barnes released today he said “As an 18-year-old, I’m in the early stages of my life journey. I’m honored and blessed for the chance to play in the NBA. And because of my family, teachers, passion, and work, I have the ultimate dream of one day playing and experiencing a fulfilling career in the NBA.”
Barnes official return makes him the second potential top five pick to return to school next year. Joining Baylor Freshman big man Perry Jones so far. Ohio State Freshman center Jared Sullinger, who also is thought of as a top five pick has said he plans on returning too but no official word on his decision has been made.