CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Late one morning a few weeks ago, Stanford coach
The former Secretary of State's name caught Harrison off guard. He dropped the cup of water he was holding in his left hand. A cookie he was holding in his right followed. "I was a little taken aback," says Barnes, who holds a 3.4 GPA and writes out academic questions in a notebook before visits to colleges. "I didn't want to gawk, but she was the world's
Barnes is a natural networker. Before attending the NBA Players' Association Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia last week he was to be fitted for golf clubs, but the social climber had to postpone due to the flu. On his summer reading list is
College coaches have been chasing the 6-foot-6 swingman for two summers. The hometown Cyclones were the first to offer a scholarship, and the rival Hawkeyes followed suit. After terrorizing opponents with his rebounding, ballhandling and 6-11 wingspan at the Nike Hoops Jamboree last spring, he returned to a flood of interest. Before leaving that weekend, his mother had asked a neighbor to collect the family's mail. Upon their return, 50 letters from one school alone had piled up.
Shirley planned for her son's success before he was conceived. In 1987, she started taping Chicago Bulls game to store
Barnes's electric moves made him a star three years ago. As a Little Cyclone at the only high school -- public or private -- in Ames, Barnes swept past his freshman competition on the first day of tryouts. Downs phoned his mother that night and asked permission to bump her son to the varsity. When she saw her son that night, she said nothing of the conversation. As he packed for school, though, she made a subtle suggestion. Freshmen practiced later than the varsity, allowing him time to return home between dismissal and taking the court. Still, she said he should bring his sneakers. Ever obedient, he did not question. After classes, Downs informed him of the change. A smile broke across Barnes's face. "I should have known," he says.
Within a week an assistant called Downs to the side of the court where big men were being drilled. All of 14, Barnes's footwork proved steps ahead of his teammates'. Downs pivoted and walked away in amazement. "I couldn't let him know how impressive that was," the coach says.
The boy with the Baptist upbringing and the burnished grades (five advanced placement courses including physics) has made believers of locals and national talent appraisers alike. After losing the state championship game on a 16-foot buzzer beater as a sophomore, he showed up at the school gym the next morning before six o'clock. Downs, who had told his players to take time off, awoke to a missed call from his star a few hours later. He wanted to be let into the gym. "We're not going to win a title by taking days off," said Barnes, who led the way to last winter's title win.
Barnes hasn't played much high school ball outside Iowa. State association rules prohibit schools from scheduling more than 21 games in a regular season and limit out-of-state travel to Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Exposure will come in mid-December when ESPN broadcasts a game. "My jaw just about dropped to the desk," Downs says of hearing about the telecast agreement.
Still, coaches have come to Iowa to see Barnes. In January, North Carolina coach
Unannounced drop-ins can add a dash of surprise to the process, too. While in North Carolina last October, Barnes and his mother visited Duke. "Sometimes it's good to see how things are when there are no plans to see you," the mother says.
On the first day that coaches could be on the road in April, there was Williams with assistant
Barnes knows how to calm the corn-fed crowds. Following a win at Mason City -- the team's longest road trip at two hours -- the star did not want to leave until each signature request was met. A teammate threw a jacket over his head and hurried him onto the bus with an
The showmanship traces its roots to his mother's early lessons. Around choral and band sessions at her office since he was a child, he picked up the cello first and considers
The words "I don't know" have always been taboo in the two-story starter home Barnes shares with his mother and 10-year-old sister
One assistant, who the family will not name, pens handwritten letters. "They never get lost in the pile," Shirley says.
In basketball, as in business, Barnes knows how far the personal touch can go.