Originally written on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 10/23/14
Somewhere, there's a quiet assassin, buried underneath all those layers of polish and nice. Vance Downs saw it several times when Harrison Barnes played for him at Ames High School, where they didn't lose a game for two seasons, where he was Chuck Norris in high-tops. In fact, Downs saw it so often, it was hard to come up with a favorite; Barnes could turn it on with the flick of a switch. There was the time in Marshalltown, with nearly a half-dozen Division I coaches in attendance including North Carolina's Roy Williams and Florida's Billy Donovan when the 6-foot-8 Iowan was given the ball on the wing, told to make something happen, and responded with a dunk that simultaneously scattered the opposition and crushed their spirit. There was the Class 4A state championship two years ago, against Southeast Polk, a powerhouse from suburban Des Moines, Barnes' last stand as a prep superstar. "And the run he made the first five minutes of the game pretty much put the game away," Downs, Barnes' old coach, told FOXSports.com when asked about the Tar Heel forward. "I remember that very distinctly. He just said, 'I'm going set the tone right now,' and the first five or six minutes of the game, it was over." There's a groundswell bubbling in North Carolina Nation at least, among those who aren't still busy crucifying Creighton's Ethan Wragge on Twitter that without point guard Kendall Marshall, the Midwest regional in St. Louis this weekend is Barnes' big moment; a chance to put the Heels on his back and carry them all the way to the promised land. To this point, he has shown the dominance expected of the nation's top high-school player, but only for stretches, snippets of pure silk. Barnes has shown the wherewithal to take over a half or even a game, depending on the circumstances. But can he take over a weekend in Bracketville? Or, better yet, two? "I think we do play well when the cards are stacked against us," Barnes, who heads into Friday night's game against Ohio averaging 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds, told reporters Tuesday. "So maybe it's kind of a blessing in disguise." It's funny, really. As a player, Barnes is the complete package: Smart, poised, great range, massive wingspan, soft hands, sick hops, vision, the works. "He could play all five positions (on the floor), no question," Downs chuckled. "I couldn't doubt he could be anything that he wanted to be, including President." In fact, the worst thing said about the Ames native's game growing up was that he was well, too political, too polite. In 73 contests as a collegian, Barnes is averaging 13.5 shots per game, but has exceeded 19 attempts just twice, both coming during his freshman campaign. As a sophomore, Barnes has averaged 13.6 attempts; his hero, Michael Jordan, averaged 14.5 attempts when he was a sophomore at Chapel Hill. "He can be very unselfish, sometimes," Downs noted. "But, in the same respect, he's extremely driven and extremely competitive. "Sometimes, kids may need to hear, 'Hey, it's your game, take it.' He played with really talented kids, obviously. He was unselfish and he'd share the ball at times. He was the most explosive player I've ever coached, without a doubt in a heartbeat, he'd put 12 on you." The world wants to see what Selfish Harrison can do, especially with the Heels' depth at guard now painfully thin. Before Marshall broke a bone in his right, non-shooting wrist during last Sunday's win over Creighton, Carolina had already lost Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland to season-ending knee injuries. The Heels have two backup plans: Unproven or Unknown. Freshman Stilman White and senior Justin Watts, Marshall's two understudies, have yet to sniff life on the big stage. Life without Marshall makes the Heels weakest at a place where 13th-seeded Ohio is the toughest in the backcourt. Bobcats point guard D.J. Cooper is the Bobcats' engine, a cold-hearted bomber who dropped 21 on Michigan and 19 on South Florida. The 5-11 Chicago native averages 14.9 points, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. So if there was ever a time for the quiet assassin to assert himself, brother, it's now. "(Harrison) was one of those players where if he felt he needed to get in there or the guys needed a little motivation or coaching tips (he'd offer them)," noted Iowa State guard Bubu Palo, one of Barnes' old Ames teammates. "He just picked and chose his moments." A moment such as Tuesday, maybe, when Barnes used a news conference to call out ESPN analyst Doug Gottleib one of several talking heads who've stuck their respective forks in the Tar Heels. "I mean, our confidence hasn't changed at all," Barnes said. "Doug Gottlieb, the person who knows everything, has his own statements. We are going to go out there and continue to play good basketball." When one reporter noted that Gottleib "couldn't shoot free throws," Barnes quipped: "Among other things." Later, a reporter said he had Gottleib's cell phone number and offered to text him a question. To that, the sophomore replied: "See if you can get the flight over to St. Louis. I'd love to meet him." Those who watched the kid grow up will also tell you it's not a good idea to make him angry. To paraphrase the old "Incredible Hulk" television show, you wouldn't like Harrison Barnes when he's angry. Unless, of course, you're a Carolina fan. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Texas A&M Aggies bench Kenny Hill for freshman Kyle Allen

Josh Smith's reaction to Faried's criticism: 'He's a clown'

Magic, Mia Hamm among owners of new MLS franchise

Michael Vick broke teammate’s finger with bullet pass

Wes Welker: 'I feel like the weak link' in Broncos' loaded offense

Greg Hardy will not play this season after trial postponement

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Chip Kelly on not weighing in on injuries: ‘I’m not Dr. Miyagi’

Saints vs Panthers: preview and prediction

Kevin Youkilis retires after 10 seasons in MLB

Ricky Williams says he retired due to poor quarterback play

Judge rejects request to move Aaron Hernandez murder trial

Jason Garrett optimistic that Tony Romo can play Sunday

WATCH: Russell Westbrook gets into it with heckling fan

PHOTO: The best sports-themed Halloween costume this year

WATCH: Jameis Winston forces fumble after throwing INT

Bruce Pearl dressed up as fellow Auburn coach Gus Mazhahn

WATCH: Jimmy Graham head-butts bench

Seahawks host football team from H.S. shocked by shooting

WATCH: Cavs intro in LeBron James’ first game back was wild

Did latest World Series win establish Giants as a dynasty?

Cavaliers give fans instructions on how to do 'Chalk Toss'

Explaining the Penguins loyalty to Marc-Andre Fleury

WATCH: Man obliterates house after Cowboys MNF loss

WATCH: Entire history of Nike in just under three minutes

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Welker feels like 'weak link' in offense

Cavs intro for LeBron was wild

Greg Hardy won't play this season

Michael Jordan rips Obama's golf game

Torii Hunter in radio ad opposing gay marriage

Curt Schilling praises Bumgarner

GALLERY: Best of sports pumpkins

Top storyline for each Week 9 game

Williams' response to criticism

WATCH: Chevy guy totally bombs

Bumgarner pitches Giants to title

Report: Cubs to hire Maddon as manager

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.