Barnes still interested in UK

No. 1 high school player on the same page with UK

jtipton@herald-leader.comJuly 10, 2009 

CLEVELAND — Harrison Barnes, widely considered the best prospect in the high school class of 2010, supposedly had concerns about Kentucky disposing of players in the wake of a coaching change.

Now, Barnes' concern might be how his thoughts can be misunderstood.

After finishing play in the King City Classic on Thursday, Barnes said his concerns had been exaggerated at best, wrongly perceived at worst.

He's still interested in UK. And vice versa.

"A little media situation," Barnes said of reaction to his concerns. "My words got misinterpreted. I cleared that up with Coach (John) Calipari. Kentucky's still interested."

Barnes, a 6-foot-6 wing from Ames, Iowa, is one of the more celebrated seniors-to-be. He led Ames High to an Iowa 4A state championship and 27-0 record last season. He's been a highly rated prospect for several years and carries himself on the court with a regal, erect bearing that could remind fans of a certain age of Dale Ellis at Tennessee in the early 1980s.

So when he wondered aloud about Kentucky shedding players after the coaching change from Billy Gillispie to Calipari, recruiting observers noticed.

Barnes noted the "good relationship" he had with Gillispie and the former UK coaching staff. "They took the time to develop the relationship," he said.

When at Memphis, Calipari showed modest interest. "A little bit," Barnes said. "Not much."

The coaching change left Barnes in limbo.

"I didn't know where I stood with them," he said of the new UK coaches.

Calipari cleared up any confusion with a phone call within the first week on the job.

"When I talked to Coach Calipari, he let me know he had a lot of interest," Barnes said.

Barnes, whose mother is a secretary in the school of music at Iowa State University, will have plenty of options to consider. It's a who's who of college basketball. He said his list of schools includes Duke, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, "Kentucky, obviously," Minnesota, Florida and Iowa State.

Minnesota stands out in the group. Tubby Smith, the former UK coach, is the reason Barnes is considering the Golden Gophers.

"I think Coach Smith, who came from Kentucky, has been very successful," Barnes said. "I'm interested to see whether he has success at Minnesota."

Barnes has not rested on his long history of laurels. He said he's trying to expand his game, wanting to become more than a spot-up jump shooter.

Time will tell if Barnes someday plies his versatile skills for Kentucky.

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