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Posted: Monday June 29, 2009 2:22PM; Updated: Monday June 29, 2009 2:22PM
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INSIDE RECRUITING

Iowa's Harrison Barnes storms onto national stage as top recruit

Story Highlights

Top recruit Harrison Barnes boasts a 6-foot-6 frame and 6-11 wingspan

Barnes has taken recent visits to North Carolina, UCLA and Stanford

His long-term goals include becoming an entrepeneur and owning a business

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Ames (Iowa) guard Harrison Barnes enters the summer as the nation's top recruit.
AP

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Late one morning a few weeks ago, Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins was showing Harrison Barnes, the nation's top basketball prospect, around campus when he looked at his watch. It was 11:15. Their next meeting was at 11:30 with "Professor Rice." Punctuality, Dawkins stressed, was important to the faculty.

Barnes's mother, Shirley, who works as a secretary in the department of music at Iowa State University, asked which subject the teacher studied. Dawkins smiled. "Oh, it's Condoleezza Rice," he said. "You probably saw her in our brochure."

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 third most powerful person."

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 Secrets of the Mind of a Millionaire: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth. To pay for his travel to summer AAU tournaments, the budding entrepreneur mows lawns, shovels driveways and sends out handwritten fundraising letters. "He finds a goal," says Vance Downs, who coaches him at Ames (Iowa) High, "and then he's unforgiving in pursuit."

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 Michael Jordan's greatness in the case she one day had a son. She would sit in front of the television with her remote control, pause recording during commercials to save space on the VHS tape and return once play resumed. The practice continued well past Barnes's birth on May 30, 1992, when he was named Harrison Bryce-Jordan Barnes. The taping stopped only after the legend retired for good.

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.

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