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.
Barnes recently spoke with Brian Boesch on the Defend The Block podcast, saying he is willing to put the work in and continue to prove wrong those who have slept on him.
“All I know is grind, man. This is really nothing new to me. My journey speaks for itself. It was a really tough journey for me. I didn’t really receive any attention until my junior year in high school, so what do you think I was doing between my middle school years to then? Just nothing but being in the gym, constant work, grinding. I’m definitely built for it, and I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I was — if I didn’t know I was.”
Once Barnes gets used to the speed of college basketball, he could do a poor man’s impersonation of Chaundee Brown, providing defense and scoring off the bench while raising the energy level on the court.
Hailing from the legendary Simeon High School in Chicago, Barnes is no stranger to big games and big crowds. He shows very active hands on defense, using his quick feet to create turnovers before getting out in transition.
There’s a case to be made he’s the best dunker among the 2021 Wolverine recruits, as he’s usually a two-hand dunker off one foot who has posterized dozens of high schoolers.
Barnes has a smooth pull-up and tempo dribble to freeze defenders and create space for his shot. He’s always in attack mode with the ball, darting to the basket and finishing through contact. When he can’t get to the rim, he utilizes his pivot foot and can find nearby teammates on the wing and in the corner proficiently.
He’s also got decent form on his jump shot. His release point is a little low, as he fires from near his forehead, but that can be improved upon with time.
There is more room for improvement in Barnes’ games, as he could develop a few more moves for when he can’t get to the basket — like a turn-around jumper or a quick floater. He also needs to tighten up his handle a little to bring down his turnover count.
It should be interesting to see how Barnes’ role evolves with the Wolverines, but I would project him starting out as a guy who comes off the bench and provides energy for a few minutes at a time. That’s how former Wolverines like Caris LeVert and D.J. Wilson started out, and they proved themselves more than a few times to earn more minutes.
College basketball is full of players who can earn more playing time by proving themselves in those stretches by being the hardest working player on the court. Barnes may not have the highest pedigree among the 2021 recruiting class, but he’s going to outwork everyone and has the potential to be a go-to scorer for the Wolverines in a few short years.