“It dont get no worse than this. The hardest thing I ever had 2 face is here. Need vision cuz everything blurry now. Where do I go from here?” – American prospect Will Barton on Twitter
Will Barton of Baltimore faces an all-too-familiar problem of young American basketballers, but thanks to Latavious Williams and Brandon Jennings, he seemingly has more options than ever to continue his promising hoops career.
Barton was one of the prizes of the 2010 NCAA recruiting class and University of Memphis backers were well pleased when the 6’6” guard declared his intent to attend their school – albeit most likely only for the minimum single season, as he was getting penciled in as an NBA Draft first-rounder out of high school.
A new problem came to light yesterday which threw Barton’s immediate future into doubt, as he was informed before a practice yesterday that the NCAA was reviewing his academic eligibility – the “hardest thing” referenced in his tweet.
Summarized Dan Wolken at the local Commercial-Appeal: “The issue with Barton […] is believed to be about whether he completed high school within the NCAA-mandated eight semesters, graduating from Lake Clifton High in Baltimore last August instead of June.”
Most observers reckon that the authority will make Barton ineligible, thus unable to play for the Tigers in 2010-11, therefore probably forever, as Wolken writes, “If he is not cleared to play this season, it is unlikely he will ever see the court for Memphis.”
Naturally, with skills like Barton’s, most media large and small were ready to offer Barton a little of the “vision” he requested. Rob Mahoney of Pro Basketball Talk argues that “There are definitely European leagues out there better than the D-League in terms of competition and talent, but if Barton wants a place where he can really showcase his skills (Jennings was hardly allowed such a luxury) while working to get better under the watchful eyes of NBA decision-makers, the [D-League] is an obvious choice.”
Scott Schroeder of the always excellent Ridiculous Upside sort-of counters with, “If Barton were to forego playing domestically this season and instead spend a year abroad, a la Brandon Jennings, he’d probably be able to make roughly the same $1.2 million that Jennings did while playing in Rome as both were high-profile players ranked at the top of their position in their class.”
Though Schroeder too is also skeptical about a European tour for Barton, BallinEurope believes that echoing Jennings’ year – say, landing with a middling Euroleague team and being about the eighth man off the bench, just without the firing-coach-at-mid-season thing – would be on paper the best for Barton’s game.
An excerpt from the glowing bit of Barton’s entry on the Bible-like Draft Express reads like so:
Barton is a scorer through and through, showing great instincts in this area, a real hunger to put the ball in the basket, and the type of swagger and competitiveness that most great players do. He has solid court vision, making some very intelligent passes in drive and dish situations in both the half-court and in transition, as well as a jump-shot that he should be able to develop into a terrific weapon down the road. …
Defensively, Barton has both the tools (size, length, lateral quickness) and the willingness to make his presence felt on this end of the court. He gets down in a stance and will play tough, intense, in-your-face pressure defense looking to shut-down his matchup…
Great. Sounds marvelous. NBA all the way, eh? But then comes the bad news.
Barton has a ways to go before he can be considered the type of teammate others would like to play with, and has a few noticeable holes in his game which could very well become more of an issue against higher level competition.
His ball-handling skills first and foremost need plenty of work, as he shows very little ability to operate with his left hand and struggles in general to create his own shot in the half-court and get all the way to the basket. His decision making and shot-selection were very questionable throughout the course of the [2009 National Prep Showcase held in November], particularly when his team started falling behind and they needed him to make good decisions. …
[Barton] seems far more concerned with getting his own shots than he is helping his team win games. He would visibly pout and even proceed (on multiple occasions) to chase after his teammates following plays and yell at them for not passing him the ball, even on possessions that his team scored regardless…
Now if you were personally interested in this player’s development, would you rather Barton spend a year in the bombs-away NBA D League which might reinforce said bad habits or would you want to break this maverick “a la Brandon Jennings”?
Perhaps a little sink-or-swim is exactly what Barton needs: playing with men far more experienced than he won’t allow the complaining, etc. And on an established European squad with a patient coach, Barton would certainly have the pressure of the go-to guy – recall that poor decision-making in the clutch – removed, rightfully so. In the D League, however, a guy like Barton would certainly be the alpha dog, almost certainly to his detriment.
BiE has been a proponent of the Jennings Masterplan since about the young Buck’s second month in the NBA: We all know this. So what about the other role model, Latavious Williams? Comparisons can’t be exactly directly made, as Williams was a small forward while Barton is clearly to be a two guard at the next level, and Barton’s stock is well higher than Williams’, but we can definitely deem the Williams Experiment a success as well.
Williams ended up going for a neat 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game in 47 games mostly off the bench; Williams also garnered high praise for his impressive performance in the playoffs. Most importantly, though, Williams was indeed drafted into the big league to land with Oklahoma City.
Of course, the overwhelming majority reckons Barton will be a first-rounder in 2011 no matter where he plays in 2010-11 and so his climb isn’t as uphill as Williams’ was. BiE just can’t help thinking, though, that Europe is Barton’s direct path to learning the team play that any NBA franchise will be expecting.