January 20, 2022

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Defend the Block: Eight Minutes Changed Recruiting Path, Destination for Barnes

Defend the Block: Eight Minutes Changed Recruiting Path, Destination for Barnes

On this week’s edition of the “Defend the Block” podcast, incoming freshman Isaiah Barnes discusses his first stint in Ann Arbor during summer classes, his unique recruiting process and why it ended with choosing Michigan, and the key aspects of his game. Also this week, former Wolverine Jon Teske stops by to talk about his quest to reach the NBA and reflects on his memories from his time in Ann Arbor.

By Brian Boesch

Two summers ago, Isaiah Barnes was not on the radars of many college basketball programs. The Chicago native was a few months removed from his sophomore season in high school, during which he averaged a modest eight points per game.

Barnes knew that if he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Daniel, who played college basketball at Eastern Michigan and Illinois-Chicago from 2008-13, he needed to transform his body and, in turn, his game. Barnes gained 25 pounds of muscle en route to a tremendous junior season. He averaged 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game at Oak Park River Forest High School.

However, Barnes still did not see the type of boost he expected in recruiting, so he distributed an eight-minute video of his junior season to various programs, and the course of his recruiting process changed drastically.

“After that, it was up from there. It was probably a new call like every other day or something like that,” Barnes recalled on this week’s edition of the “Defend the Block” podcast. “People really started coming in and knowing who I am as a player, and they saw the big jump that I had from my sophomore year to my junior year.”

Barnes knew that he needed to impress high-level programs with the on-court aspect of his game, but he was more concerned about the personal side when talking with those programs. As a result, the Wolverines — and head coach Juwan Howard — stood out.

“It is basketball, but it’s not all about basketball. The first thing that we talked about was how they’re going to make me better as a person,” Barnes said. “We didn’t really start talking about basketball until after I signed, so that’s how you know there’s that family atmosphere there.”

Once those basketball conversations began, Barnes’ versatility jumped off the screen, both in that eight-minute video and beyond. Howard and his staff believe that Barnes, a four-star recruit who was the first commit in the Wolverines’ top-ranked class, can play and guard multiple positions, all while having the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.

“Really just bringing that grit, defense, (and) versatility. I like to try and do everything, do whatever I can and bring that to the table,” Barnes said about his potential role. “I’m definitely built for it, and I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I was or didn’t know I was.”

Associate head coach Phil Martelli said earlier this month that Barnes went a little too far in his attempt to do everything when he first arrived on campus. Barnes was a bit erratic early on, but the speed of his game improved significantly from the start of summer work until the end.

“The more time went on, the more comfortable I was getting with the pace,” Barnes said. “At first, I can agree that I was a little bit excited. I felt like I needed to go 100 miles an hour, but that’s not college basketball. You gotta pick your spots. You gotta not think, just gotta move at your own pace and not let your excitement or anything take over you being yourself.”

Barnes always has been himself, but he has evolved to the information in front of him. That is how he wooed college programs after a quiet early portion of his high school career, and that is how he plans to handle his opportunity here in Ann Arbor.

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