And Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams isn't about to dismiss the impact of his arrival. He might not overhype him, but he's also well aware of what Barnes will provide to a Tar Heels program desperate to get back on track.
North Carolina is coming off a 5-11 season in the ACC (20-17 overall after a run to the NIT final). Barnes signed long before the season went awry. But never before under Williams have the Tar Heels needed not just an infusion of a super talent -- Barnes is rated No. 1 by ESPNU -- but also a personality that can handle the attention.
Barnes will be in Chapel Hill this summer to get adjusted to life on campus and to practice with the Tar Heels beginning Aug. 7 in advance of their summer trip to Nassau, Bahamas, for a few games.
The versatile Barnes has the game that may make him a one-and-done player, and he also has shown a pro-like maturity in the way he publicly handles himself.
"Harrison is a focused young man," Williams said Wednesday as he took some down time before the July recruiting evaluation period begins. "He's really mature. He's got a strong focus."
Williams said he had high expectations for Tyler Hansbrough as a freshman after the Heels won the title in 2005. But he said the fan base didn't share those same expectations. That's not the case with Barnes.
Having the Iowa native arrive the same season as Duke's Kyrie Irving couldn't have worked out better for North Carolina. The Tar Heels will be chasing Duke, much like Duke was trying to stay with UNC in '08 and '09.
Irving and Barnes could be the leading candidates (along with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger) for national freshman of the year and quite possibly for the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA draft (barring a lockout). Duke has veteran leadership with the return of Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, so Irving won't be the primary spokesperson, let alone the leader.
Barnes on the other hand will have to be a little bit of everything and never out of the spotlight for the Tar Heels, especially because of what has become a depleted frontcourt. The departure of Ed Davis to the draft, the expiration of eligibility for Deon Thompson and the abrupt transfer of David and Travis Wear have left the frontcourt with Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
The Wear twins' decision to transfer back home to UCLA caught Williams off guard. Williams said he had a "great meeting at my house on the last day of regular classes." And then soon after they informed him they were gone.
• Williams said he tried to make it to the NBA draft to be with Davis, but his plane was diverted multiple times. He sat on the tarmac in Richmond, after being diverted to Virginia because of storms in the area, before going back to North Carolina and watching the draft in the airport.
• The USA U-18 men's national team won gold Wednesday with a gritty 81-78 victory over Brazil in San Antonio. The Americans, coached by Oklahoma's Jeff Capel, went 5-0 in the tournament, which was a national debut for names that will be very familiar to many hoop fans soon. The aforementioned Irving led the U.S. with 21 points and 10 boards in 37 minutes. Austin Rivers, Doc Rivers' son, who has Duke, Carolina and Florida on his radar (if not UCLA and Kansas, too), scored 19 points. Illinois-bound Jereme Richmond, Missouri signee Tony Mitchell, Florida incoming freshman Patric Young and undecided forward Quincy Miller (North Chicago, Ill.) were all key members of the team.
• Michigan coach John Beilein continues to have major turnover issues. All of the assistants recruiting on the road in July are new. The team's top player, Manny Harris, bolted to the NBA draft without assurances he would get drafted -- and he did not. Now reserve guard Laval Lucas-Perry is gone, per the Ann Arbor News, for essentially failing to adhere to the team's standards. Good for the chair of the coaches' ethics committee, but at some point there has to be stability with the Wolverines to move forward and regain the momentum they had two seasons ago in making the NCAA tournament.
• George Washington coach Karl Hobbs hired longtime NBA player Donyell Marshall as an assistant. Hobbs was on the UConn staff when Marshall was a star in Storrs. Marshall's good friend and UConn alumnus Kevin Ollie is expected to choose a similar path and join the Huskies as an assistant.
• The NCAA provided the actual guidelines for which players like Roburt Sallie and Eniel Polynice will have to pursue to be immediately eligible after transferring from Memphis to Louisville and Ole Miss to Seton Hall, respectively. The players are trying to use a graduate student transfer bylaw allowing them to go to another school once they've graduated to pursue another major, although the NCAA said it has not received a waiver request from either school.
Here is the bylaw:
Graduate Student Transfers [Bylaw 126.96.36.199]
For waivers of Bylaw 188.8.131.52 for those student-athletes transferring for the 2007-08 academic year or thereafter, the subcommittee adopted the following information standards:
1. A letter from previous institution (e.g., athletics director, faculty athletics representative, president) stating it does not object to the student-athlete being immediately eligible.
2. Documentation from the appropriate academic authority that the student-athlete has been accepted into a specific graduate program at the institution he or she wishes to transfer to.
3. Documentation indicating whether the specific graduate degree is available at the previous institution.
4. A statement from the student-athlete detailing the reasons for the transfer.