Can Barnes' polish elevate North Carolina?

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If there’s one word to describe Harrison Barnes – the jewel of North Carolina’s 2010 recruiting class – it’s “polish.”

The 6-7 swingman out of Ames, Iowa, carries himself like royalty, speaks without any of the usual clichés and is focused on his intended major, Business Administration, with a concentration in Finance. His game? It’s fairly polished, too.

Rick Bowmer / AP

Scouts rave about Barnes’ all-around game, whether it’s hitting from outside, attacking off the dribble or his defensive versatility. He’s the kind of player coaches crave, able to fill several positions and improve everyone else. Like I said, polish.

But don’t mistake polish for Barnes being a finished product. He’s still focused on improving and wowing onlookers. SI.com’s Luke Winn watched Barnes at Chris Paul’s camp earlier this week and came away raving:

Barnes is the rare wing player who has the combination of size, athleticism, and elegant shooting form from long-range. He’s not Kevin Durant, who was longer and more of an athletic “freak” in his one-and-done year at Texas. But I believe Barnes could be the smoothest scoring forward to hit college hoops since Durant — someone capable of creating a lot of his own offense and pushing Carolina back into the national rankings.

Winn isn’t starstruck either. Duke’s Nolan Smith said Barnes “could be something special,” not the usual disdain one has for an opponent.

That polish was evident throughout Barnes’ recruitment, too. This excellent read from Carolina Magazine details the recruitment of Roy Williams’ prized 2010 class that includes Barnes, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. Barnes handled his recruitment the way a professional athlete would – close to the chest and not telling the press anything. Even when Barnes met former UNC stars at the alumni game, he thought big picture.

“In a 15-minute span, I got to meet Dean Smith, Phil Ford and Vince Carter,” Marshall recalled. “I think it was amazing for an alumni game that you were able to have that many players in the NBA and not playing anymore, come back and still support the program and play in that game.”

Later on, Marshall got to meet Michael Jordan. Right before the tip, Bullock got to meet him, too.

Barnes just let everything sink in.

“He had one purpose for that visit and that was to see how the team interacted,” [his mom] Shirley said. “Not so much with him but how they interacted with each other. How they cared about each other as a team. That was his main focus.”

The Tar Heels hope that polish carries Barnes throughout his freshman season when he’ll be asked to do things – score, rebound, pass, defend and do it all well – that upperclassmen sometimes don’t do.

If the early indications mean anything, he’ll be just fine.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops.