Will Barton - Memphiswords & images_Zac Dubasik

The 2010 NBA draft will be held Thursday night, and there is a lot of excitement around this year’s class. Players like John Wall, Evan Turner and DeMarcus Cousins have already become household names for hoops fans, and will look to make an immediate impact on their pro teams next season.

Who are the next big names to watch for in college though? Sole Collector had a chance to catch up with some of this year’s best high school seniors at the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic, and this week we’ll feature interviews of players to watch next college season. First up is Will Barton:

Will Barton

Height: 6-6
Weight: 172
Position: Guard
High School: Brewster Academy; Wolfeboro, NH
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
College: University of Memphis

While Will Barton’s offensive numbers from high school were impressive (24 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG), his commitment to defense helped make him even more attractive to scouts, which ultimately earned him a spot at the University of Memphis. Barton helped lead his high school team to a national prep championship his senior season, and provided some of the best aerial highlights of the JBC weekend. With his extremely well-rounded game, Barton hopes to be an immediate difference-maker at Memphis.

Will Barton - MemphisZac Dubasik: How did you feel when you found out you were selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic?
Will Barton: Ah man, it was wonderful. Because getting to play for Michael Jordan’s brand, who’s the greatest player of all time, that’s got to be the best all-star game around. Who doesn’t want to play for the greatest? I was very honored, humbled and excited.

How do you compare the JBC to Hoop Summit?[Barton played in the Nike-sponsored Hoop Summit the previous weekend.]
The Hoop Summit was great – I played for my country, the USA. But like I said, this is Michael Jordan, and I’ll pick that over anything, any day.

Does your love for MJ and Jordan Brand go way back?
Michael Jordan was my favorite player growing up. Now I’m a Kobe fan, because he reminds me of Mike. Everybody in Baltimore, we love Jordan sneakers, Jordan everything.

Have you been a sneaker fan for a long time?
Yeah – you gotta make sure your sneakers are right.

Do you have any favorites?
I love the Jordan XIIs and the Dub Zeros.

What kicks did you wear for games during high school?
This year, Jordans and Nikes. That’s it. I can’t play in anything else.

Do you have any goals or expectations coming into the JBC?
I have huge expectations. I want to show that I’m the best player here, that I’m a good teammate and that I’m also a good person off the court. I want to develop relationships with the players, the staff and the media, and let it be known that Will Barton is here.

When did you decide you were going to Memphis?
Last summer. I committed June 6th.

How soon do you start working out and getting ready to play there?
I actually start summer school down there June 6th. I graduate high school May 24th, go home to Baltimore for a couple weeks, and boom, right down there to Memphis for summer school.

What are your goals for your freshman season at Memphis?
I’ve got big goals. First is to get it done in the classroom, of course. And then to just work on my game, all day, everyday, to get better and stronger. We want to make a run at that National Championship next year in Memphis. I just want to get it done, win the conference and win a lot of games.

Will Barton - Memphis

Will Barton - Memphis

What types of changes in the game are you expecting at the next level?

I’ve talked to a lot of college players and they say the game is faster. But the best players still get to stay at their pace. If you are really good, you will get to stay at your pace. The game is going to speed up, but it should look slow for you. I’m going to have to adjust to that. Of course it’s going to be more physical, with bigger and older guys. You aren’t always going to be the best player on the court every game like in high school. I’m just trying to get myself mentally prepared, because in college, no matter who you are, no matter how good you are – whether you are the number-one player in the country like Evan Turner or John Wall, you are still going to have ups and downs in college and you are going to hit that wall.

Do you think you will look back at this game and your expe

rience this weekend with Jordan Brand as an important part of your journey if you are able to move on to the next level after college?
Yes sir. A lot of NBA players have come through [the JBC]. Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul – you name it. A lot of great players have been through it. So of course, if I were to make the NBA, I know a lot of other NBA players have made this game, so I’ll always have something to look back at.

Did the chance to play in games like this give you motivation during your high school career?
Oh yeah. In high school ball, when you are one of the high ranked players and getting invited to all of these games and everyone knows you, you are kind of a big target. So, I just wanted to make sure every night when I was going into one of my games, I knew there is someone there that never saw me play and had only heard of me — I wanted to make sure I impressed them. I wanted them to get the real Will Barton and I wasn’t out there sluggish. I wanted everyone to leave that gym saying “Will Barton is a hell of a player and he’s a great person.” That was my goal right there.

Will Barton - MemphisWill Barton - Memphis