It would have been hard for Harrison Barnes to top his junior season, after he led Ames (Ames, Iowa) to a Class 4A state title and 26-0 record.
But he somehow managed to do just that. Kicking off the 2009-10 season with a unique college commitment via Skype to North Carolina, Barnes turned his entire senior campaign into a personal highlight reel.
The 6-foot-7 wing led Ames to another state title, this time with a 27-0 record that helped it finish ranked No. 10 in the final ESPNHS FAB 50.
For leading Ames on that historic run through in-state competition and dominant performances against All-American peers, Barnes has been named ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA.
"Wow, thank you very much," said Barnes, who led Ames to a class-record 53 straight wins. "I'm very humbled to receive this award from ESPNHS. I want to thank coach [Vance] Downs, coach Jafar [Azmayesh], coach 'Lefty' Moore, coach Jean Prioleau, my mom [Shirley], and my sister [Jourdan-Ashle]. They all helped me get to where I am now."
Barnes became the first player from Iowa to earn the Mr. Basketball award, an honor purely based on performance and dates back to the 1954-55 season. He joins the likes of Kevin Garnett (1995), Jason Kidd (1992) and LeBron James (2002-03) as honorees.
In addition to a strong work ethic and competitive fire while bearing an even-keel disposition, on-court production helped Barnes earn this honor. He averaged 26.1 points, 10 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 3.0 assists per game to lead undefeated Ames. Barnes also earned MVP honors at the two major postseason All-American games, the McDonald's Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
This year's Mr. Basketball USA Tracker was close every week, as Barnes edged out 6-foot-9 Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio) for this honor. Sullinger's team went undefeated until it lost by 26 in a regional playoff game.
The nation's most dominant post player led Northland to the No. 1 ranking in the ESPNHS FAB 50 for more than two months -- a fact not lost on Barnes.
"Most of the national player of the year awards have been myself or Jared," Barnes said. "He's obviously a tremendous player -- very hard to stop, not just in the low post. He's definitely done a good job of developing his game."
Barnes has also come a long way. From his first ninth-grade tryout when he hoped to earn his keep on the freshman team to becoming a state icon who won MVP awards at the two most prestigious national all-star games, Barnes has improved each year.
Through it all, he says this year's Nike Hoop Summit produced his most memorable moment.
Barnes hit a clutch 3-pointer and led a fourth-quarter rally to help the USA Junior National Select to victory two weekends ago in Portland, Ore. Is it any surprise Barnes' team won all three postseason events he participated in?
"In ninth grade, I had no one telling me I could play varsity," Barnes said. "But the thing I will remember most is the Hoop Summit. None of the 10 players on our team, including myself, have been on the bench in a critical situation. Our camaraderie and seeing the support we had on the bench, you don't normally see that. It was a great experience from me.
"Now that my high school career is over after the [Jordan Brand Classic], it's kind of hard to take it all in," Barnes added. "I'm anxious to see where I'm going."
If the previous Mr. Basketball USA winners are any indication, Barnes is going somewhere he'll enjoy.