The men’s basketball team may have lost five out of its last six games, but over that span it has been the beneficiary of tremendous production in the person of junior tri-captain Ka’Ron Barnes. Since moving to his natural position of point guard Jan. 3 against Army, Barnes has been nearly unstoppable, playing the best basketball of his career.
“I think things changed drastically when I moved up to the point guard position,” said Barnes. “I feel I’m more comfortable with the ball in my hands. As I play more there, I’ve been able to see more opportunities.”
During his four years at Turner/Carroll High School in Buffalo, Barnes distinguished himself as one of the top point guards in Western New York. He led his team to two state championships as well as a pair of Manhattan Cup titles.
After alternating between the point and shooting guard positions his freshman year, Barnes spent the majority of his time last season as the Red’s starting two-guard.
Though he averaged 10.3 points and 2.1 assists per game in 2000-01, his production dropped off during a sophomore season in which he was forced to contend with a broken hand. The injury caused him to miss four games and limited his minutes in four more at the end of the season.
Coming into 2002-03, Barnes was poised for a breakout season.
“I think he rededicated himself to the game over the summer, in the preseason” said head coach Steve Donahue.
Once the Ivy League portion of the Red’s schedule began in January, Barnes caught fire.
In just his second game at point guard, Barnes dished out a team-record 13 assists in a Jan. 5 win over Lafayette. The production continued as the team went deeper into the month. He scored 15 points against Georgia Tech, shooting 4-7 from 3-point range. Two weeks later, Barnes tied his career high of 21 points against Bucknell, dishing out seven assists.
“We were giving him more responsibility, more leeway on the court,” said Donahue. “I thought he earned that by the way he showed up early and stayed late and did all the extra work. It coincided with him being the point guard, I think everything came together at that time.”
As most of the team fell flat Feb. 8 against Princeton, Barnes was a bright spot for the Red, scoring 19 points on 6-8 shooting, the first of three straight Saturdays in which he would thoroughly dominate the scoring column.
Playing against Harvard two weeks ago, Barnes broke his career high, scoring 25 points on 7-10 shooting. He also had two steals as the Red broke its five-game losing streak 82-69.
This past Saturday at Brown, Barnes once again stood out, scoring 30 points and besting his previous career-high set a week before. Of his 30 points against Brown, 19 came in the second half, and at one point late in the game, he shot a sparkling 14-20 before missing his last eight shots, most of which were desperation heaves as the Red attempted to climb back into the game.
“His play has been terrific,” lauded Donahue. “He basically put us on his back two Saturdays in a row against two good teams on the road and we almost [won] both of them.”
Part of Barnes’ ability to put up huge numbers on the tail-end of back-to-back games is his tremendous athleticism. Barnes, however, attributes his success to the mental aspect of the game.
“You play hard the first night and it takes up all your energy,” he said. “When you get to the second night, you might not feel great but when you get back on the court you feel the same. I don’t really feel tired because once I get into it, I am ready to play.”
Barnes currently leads the team in scoring (13.7 ppg), steals (37), and assists (4.0 apg). He has 791 career points, including 316 this season.
“He’s got other people [more] involved,” said Donahue. “He’s done a great job in all aspects of the game.”
Off the court, Barnes has been equally influential. As one of only three upperclassmen, teammates look to him to set the tone for how the team will carry itself.
“I think that all the guys respect him because he’s the kind of guy that leads by example,” Donahue said. “He’s done more of that lately where he steps up and he tells guys in a way that they respect him. He doesn’t yell or scream, he just says what he has to say.”
“I just try to stay competitive in practice,” Barnes explained, “work hard all the time.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner