Isaiah Barnes saw his offer list explode this past spring.
The former Oak Park star, who is transferring to Simeon for his senior year, was the hottest name in Illinois over the past several months — and one of the hottest in the country in the Class of 2021.
He sifted through an assortment of high-major offers in recent weeks and pulled the trigger Wednesday morning, committing to coach Juwan Howard and Michigan.
“There is a great tradition at Michigan,” Barnes said. “I saw myself being a part of that. Every offer I received was a blessing. But I felt it with Michigan. Coach Howard and I had some great conversations about wearing the maize and blue.”
Howard, a Chicago native who starred at Vocational 30 years ago, secures a commitment from a 6-7 wing with a high ceiling and who is among the top prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2021.
The big, skilled and versatile Barnes picked up offers from Kansas, Iowa State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, Creighton, TCU, DePaul, Texas A&M, Iowa and Georgia among others. But he had to wait his turn.
While other top prospects in the class were receiving high-major offers two years ago, Barnes said he tried to remain patient. But he knew his high-major opportunities would come eventually.
“It was a challenge for me, honestly, to see others getting what I thought I deserved,” Barnes said. “But it did add fuel to the fire.”
Barnes said at one point he took a time out from social media and even tried to stay off of his phone. He didn’t want the distraction to impact his game and development.
“I didn’t want it to get to me, and I wanted to just put the work in and not worry about it,” said Barnes of the recruiting process. “I knew it was a matter of time and that it would happen, and I was ready for it.”
The recruitment came fast and furious for Barnes once the high school season was complete and the coronavirus shutdown began. The offers began rolling in and Barnes had to sort them all out. He says he never felt overwhelmed, but as the relationship with Howard grew, Michigan became a clear choice for Barnes.
“Our relationship grew so much over the past couple of months,” Barnes said. “We talked almost every day. We talked about so many things other than basketball –– about him being from Chicago, about becoming a better man. I felt that connection with him. To top it off, the academics are great. It’s the best place for me.”
A tantalizing talent with skill and size on the perimeter, Barnes has been among the top prospects in the class since the day he entered high school. The late-blooming prospect’s body and game continued to develop over the course of his career, which included a breakout junior season.
This past year he averaged 18.5 points for the Huskies while making 65 three-pointers.
Barnes, who Rivals ranks as the No. 113 prospect in the country, showcases high-level athleticism and a great basketball body to go with an impressive skill package. He can handle the ball on the perimeter, attack the basket and shoot it with range. He shot 36 percent from beyond the arc this past season.
Now Barnes will be part of a Simeon team that figures to be among the best in the state in 2020-21.