He was the only freshman to receive AP All-American honors before he even played a game in North Carolina blue. Then Harrison Barnes had a slow start to his freshman year, and everyone wanted to rescind that pick immediately. It all worked out in the end, of course, like a slow build to a crescendo that ended in ACC Rookie of the Year honors, a second-team All-American honor this year, and a career average of 16.5 points per game. The sure sign that he’d become the player worthy of all the hype came in March of 2011, when he dropped 40 points on Clemson in the ACC Tournament. Yeah, he was ready. But he was making plays like this, too, to show he was on his way.
With NBA Draft night finally here and Barnes expected to be picked in the top five spots, here’s the guard’s top five plays of his Tar Heel career.
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5. Game-winner in Miami
Barnes hit a three in the corner with 4 seconds left to take out the Hurricanes on the road. Barnes shot 36 percent from there this season and 35 percent from distance as a freshman.
And for a better view of the shot from the stands…
4. Goodnight, NC State.
These are two dunks that are hard to separate from the game against the Pack this year. First up is a putback slam with one hand that even catches John Henson. The second is the play no defender wants to see, where the most athletic guy on the other team is running at you in the lane, before gathering and … well, I think you know how it ends.
3. Cold-blooded in Tallahassee
Another late freshman-year highlight from Barnes’ collection is this buzzer-beater against Florida State. There are only 8 seconds left on the clock when he gets the ball and yet he still takes the rock all the way to nearly center court to set up the three. That’s confidence. That’s why it’s No. 3.
2. The putback on Kentucky
Before Barnes’ freshman season entered 2011 he’d already left a top-five highlight trail with this putback dunk over Final Four-bound Kentucky. Check the elevation on this and the angle he flushes it with his right arm. The first of many plays his freshman year that began to show he was ready for All-American recognition.
1. Clemson domination
Does Barnes have something against Clemson? I’m starting to think so after revisiting some of his highlights after two of them — the 40-point game and now this — have each come against the purple and orange. Just for fun he drops a leg kick on the tail end of this dunk and leaves the defender flying. The best part was he had so little speed coming off the delayed spin, and yet he still gets the elevation like he’d been sprinting down the lane and hit a jump box.