Williams: It’s Time to Move On

Well…that hurt.

I’m sure that you’ve heard by now. Next year at this time, Ames High School basketball superstar Harrison Barnes will be donning the powder blue of the University of North Carolina.

That’s not why today’s announcement was so painful for Iowa State fans though. The spectacle hurt Iowa Staters because every single one of you really believed that the Clones had a legitimate shot to land not only Ames’ golden boy, but the top basketball prospect in the United States of America.

Don’t feel bad for hurting this evening. I don’t blame you for thinking that Iowa State was in this. I know that I did.

Roy Williams and the convincing basketball tradition at North Carolina won again. The rich got richer. Again.

But how close was it? Did Iowa State really have a chance?

“Harrison would say that North Carolina is his pick and everybody else was second,” Harrison’s mother, Shirley Barnes told after the event.

Second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…it doesn’t really matter. At this point, don’t even waste your brain cells trying to figure out where Iowa State placed in this race. North Carolina won. What makes things worse is that Roy Williams won in the state of Iowa…again.

“Coach Williams is quite unique. I would say that UNC didn’t initially start off at the top of our list,” Shirley Barnes said while laughing. “He was very consistent and he just kept plugging at it and plugging at it and each time he would take it to a different level. He was always a step ahead of everyone else. Always.”

I knew this thing was over when Barnes commented on “always being an Iowa State fan.” He wouldn’t have said that if he planned on attending the university.

This is a hard column for me to write. It’s tough because in one way or another, I’ve covered Harrison since he was a freshman in high school. I mean it when I write that he is a gem of a young man. He’s humble. He’s classy. He’s very well spoken. He’s adored by his classmates. Harrison Barnes is a Grade A human being.

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that this story is actually over.

Two months ago, many of you ripped me when I wrote that I didn’t believe Iowa State had a shot in this thing. Like many of you, as the months went on, my mind slowly began to change.

I don’t want to write that I got sucked in because I don’t believe that was Harrison’s intention by leaving Iowa State on his short list.

At one point today, I’d say at around 2:30, I thought was convinced he’d pick the Cyclones. The band was there. The cheerleaders were there. Iowa State shirts littered the gym.

But once again, more heartbreak was soon in store for the Cyclone Nation.

I believe that my good friend and colleague Brent Blum summed it up this morning when he wrote: “For so many years, Iowa State has been able to flirt with the knock-out at the bar but never able to take her home. (We about had her back home in 2000. The girl was in the back of cab with us having a good time when Mateen Cleeves and Morris Petersen swiped her away in a Range Rover. That was not a good night. Same goes for 2001, when out of nowhere that creepy dude with the eye-patch abducted her.)”

This is one of those moments. That gorgeous blonde, who is shaped like a Coke bottle, was ringing our doorbell. We answered the door, eagerly, only to find out that she was there to go out with our older cousin who boasts a six-pack along with an awesome tan.

This thing hurts. Nobody can blame anybody for hurting. That’s what being a fan is all about.

This has been most emotional topic I have ever covered. Not for me, but for all of you. The brutal combination that he was from Ames, he played side-by-side with Greg McDermott’s son and let’s be honest, he’s the overall total package.

Iowa State lost nothing on the scoreboard today. But in the end, the Cyclones lost an awful lot. Ticket sales…national exposure…jersey sales…and a whole lot of hope.

As numb as my emotions are right now, I do know one thing. That’s that absolutely nobody should be blaming Greg McDermott or his staff for missing out on Barnes. The fact that Iowa State was in this thing to the end is a testament for McDermott and his staff’s recruiting efforts. The Cyclone coaches were on the front lines going up against the best of the best and for all that we know, they almost won.

So where does Iowa State’s basketball program go from here?

It starts with Marshalltown Community College guard DeMarcus Phillips. Plan on him joining Iowa State’s class of 2010, officially on Monday.

It continues over the next few weeks. The most intelligent reaction I’ve heard from today’s news comes from the Twitter feed of Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly.

“TRUE CYCLONE fans need to give OUR team a great response tonite– WORRY about the ones we have who ARE Cyclones!!!!”

Props to that coach.

Go to Hilton. Go to Jack Trice Stadium tomorrow.

Yell loud. Be proud. The sun will come up tomorrow. And as always, win or lose, it’s great to be a Cyclone.