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Player Profile: Isaiah Barnes has plenty of long-term upside

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The true freshman has some work to do, but could be a major help off the bench at some point.

The Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team’s 2021 recruiting class is one of the most talented in school history, headlined by prospects with NBA upside like Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate.

Thanks to the depth on Michigan’s roster, several of the players in the 2021 class are flying under the radar with all the media attention around Houstan and Diabate. Within that class, one of the players who is used to not getting the attention he deserves is Isaiah Barnes, as he was an unranked recruit two years ago.

Let’s break down Barnes’ high school game and project what fans can expect from him in the 2021-22 season and beyond.

The story so far

Hailing from the legendary Simeon High School in Chicago, Barnes is no stranger to big games and big crowds. He is a great two-way player who proved he can create his own shot while also guarding one of the other team’s best players in high school. He shows very active hands on defense and uses his quick feet to create turnovers before getting out in transition.

Barnes also has a smooth jumper and utilizes a nifty tempo dribble to freeze defenders and create space for his shot.

I love his tenacity with the ball, as he always seems to be in attack mode, darting to the basket and finishing through contact. When Barnes can’t get to the rim, he utilizes his pivot foot and can find nearby teammates on the wing and in the corner proficiently.

Barnes will make more than a few highlight plays at Michigan thanks to his ability as a dunker. He’s usually a two-hand dunker off one foot who has posterized dozens of high schoolers. There is a serious case to be made he is the best dunker in the class.

Barnes has the potential to mature into a 3-and-D, go-to scoring wing with the Wolverines. In the next few years, I would project him to play a similar role to that of Muhammad Ali Abdur Rahkman; he may not be the No. 1 scoring option, but he can be relied upon to hit big shots and play solid defense.

The Chicago native has higher upside than Abdur Rahkman and many other past Michigan wings, so fans shouldn’t be shocked if he gets NBA buzz a few years from now.

Outlook for 2021-22

While Barnes is clearly a talented player, there may not be very many minutes available for him this season. With the way the roster is shaking out for this season, the position with the least amount of depth may be at the 3 (small forward), with Houstan likely getting the start.

Terrance Williams said at media day he has been practicing at the 3, but Barnes appears to be a better shooter who could take those minutes in the second unit.

Barnes and Will Tschetter seem the most likely candidates to be redshirted this season. While they are both super talented, there just may not be a lot of minutes available for them with all the depth in the back court.

Just like Williams last season, if he is not redshirted, I could see Barnes playing in 3-4 minute bursts to get his feet wet. He’ll likely play less than 10 minutes a game this season, but if he can reliably knock down threes and defend well, those minutes will climb.

In the long term, Barnes could be a staple of Michigan’s rotation for years to come. If Houstan leaves for the NBA Draft after this season, Barnes could theoretically slide right in at the 3 and average double-digit points sooner rather than later.

The fact Barnes may not get minutes on this year’s team is not a knock on him at all, but a combination of the returning players ahead of him and the loaded 2021 class puts him in a tough spot for this season.

Michigan fans may not see a lot of him this season, but the fact remains Barnes is a talented two-way wing who can be a staple of Michigan basketball in a few years.