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July 15, 2009

Barnes talks sports with 'Professor Rice'

MORE: Interest in storied basketball game dwindling | Researcher calls for less football practices

During a recent unofficial visit to Stanford University, basketball coach Johnny Dawkins was giving Harrison Barnes a tour of campus.

The next meeting on the schedule was an 11:30 a.m. with a certain "Professor Rice."

Turned out it was Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state who is now teaching at the school.

Barnes, a 6-foot-7 wing from Ames (Iowa) Senior High who is ranked No. 1 among small forwards in the Class of 2010, had only known Rice from TV appearances in which she didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

But when he finally met Rice in her office, she was laughing and joking and making him feel right at home.

"She was just kind of explaining her life story and her experiences," Barnes said by phone from the recent LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio. "I was just really surprised that she was such a sports fanatic. She knew a lot about football."

While Barnes won't be playing football in college, he does plan to pick a basketball program at a school with a strong academic reputation and a good business program. He maintains a 3.6 grade point average and will likely be a sophomore academically when he enters college. By the time he arrives on campus, he will have finished nine Advanced Placement courses.

His college list includes some of the top academic institutions in the nation: North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas, UCLA, Stanford, Florida, Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State.

During the recent April recruiting period, Kentucky coach John Calipari, Kansas coach Bill Self, Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, Iowa State coach Greg McDermott and North Carolina assistant Steve Robinson all came to watch Barnes during open gyms.

"I'm looking for a school that has a good business program and a team that can compete for a national championship and prepare me for the next level if I'm blessed to be there," he said.

The conventional wisdom is that Barnes will land at either Kansas or Duke, but he says he's wide open.

"No, I wouldn't say that's accurate [about those two schools]," he said. "At this point in time, everyone's equal. I'll probably narrow down my list after the summer ends."

Barnes lives with his mother, Shirley, and 10-year-old sister Ashle Jourdan. His mother is a secretary in the music department at Iowa State, so he grew up near a college campus.

Barnes played cello as a young boy and now plays saxophone in his spare time. Beethoven's Für Elise is reportedly his favorite music to play on the sax.

"I no longer do it with the school," he said. "I do it on my own as a hobby."

The family has always valued education, and Barnes' summer reading list reportedly includes "Secrets of the Mind of a Millionaire: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth."

On the court, Barnes is a tremendous talent who possesses a textbook jump shot as well as the athleticism needed to grab rebounds above the rim.

His potential is "limitless," said Ames coach Vance Downs. "He's as good as they come. First of all, he's a wing player. He's all of 6-foot-7 with the wing span of a 7-footer. He's explosive. He's got an inside game, an intermediate game and a perimeter game.

"His ballhandling and court vision are getting better every day, and I don't know that there's a ceiling for this young man. He's the real deal."

Before Harrison was born his mother began taping Michael Jordan's games, and Barnes – whose full name is Harrison Bryce-Jordan Barnes – now watches them, studying his moves.

"I took it on my own to watch them," he said. "That's where I learned some skills from, just aggressiveness, where to be open and how to get separation."

Off the court, Barnes has been compared to former Duke standout Shane Battier because of his ability to articulate and remain composed with the media.

His interests are varied.

Barnes leads a Bible study group called "Word on Wednesday" before class on, you guessed it, Wednesdays.

He's no prima donna, either.

Barnes does odd jobs around town to help finance his summer travel to places like the Nike Peach Jam, where he is wowing coaches this week despite reportedly cutting his non-shooting hand.

"I do stuff like mowing lawns, shoveling … to generate funds for the summer," he said.

Though he may not yet have the national reputation of the top players in the Class of 2009 – John Wall, Xavier Henry and Lance Stephenson – that will likely change this year.

ESPN is due to televise an Ames game in mid-December.

Maybe Condoleezza Rice will even check it out.

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