Seating was at a premium Tuesday night at Ames High School’s gym.
Ames and Urbandale kicked off their boys basketball seasons, a meeting of two of central Iowa’s top Class 4A teams. That mattered very little to many inside the gym.
They were there to watch Ames junior Harrison Barnes, considered one of the top five recruits in the nation.
Kansas’ Bill Self, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins and hometown hope Greg McDermott were in attendance. Barnes holds two dozen scholarship offers already. The 6-6, 200-pounder can write his own ticket: Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, Louisville… name the school and they’ll drop everything to sign him.
The capacity crowd included Iowa State men’s basketball players and support staff, former Cyclone assistant coach Jim Hallihan, Wayne Clinton — Ames’ coach when the last huge local star Fred Hoiberg was here, a half-dozen ISU football players and all three Des Moines television stations.
It was darn near standing room only.
Barnes showed his array of skills during Ames’ surprisingly lopsided 66-34 victory. Barnes swished threes, soared to the hoop for lay-ins, snared rebounds, swatted shots and showed the kind of unselfishness you rarely see from players of his stature.
He finished with 16 points, a modest total that certainly could have been higher.
Whether Iowa State can reel in its high-profile local boy has been dicussed at length on talk radio and Internet chat rooms and message boards. It was the first school to offer the kid, who is the son of former Cyclone star Ron Harris.
To Coach K or Ol’ Roy, Barnes would be another five-star notch in their recruiting belt.
To McDermott, Barnes would be a program changer, a player who could help return ISU to national prominence and the top of the Big 12.
We’ll be watching, along with the rest of college basketball’s elite hot on Barnes’ trail. He’s said he’s in no hurry to decide.
Signing day is next November. Cyclone fans will be on pins and needles till then, with fingers crossed and rabbit’s feet stuffed in their pockets.