Antonio Barton had only a handful of Division I basketball programs interested in him three years ago coming out Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, where he spent a post-grad year after playing his senior season at Lake Clifton.
When Barton announced his intentions to leave Memphis last month and finish his college career elsewhere, the 6-2 point guard from Baltimore said that some two dozen schools contacted him about transferring.
Barton, who reportedly has narrowed his list down to four schools, said last week that he expects to make his decision Sunday. Once considered the favorite, Maryland will have to wait to see if Barton picks the Terps over Texas A&M, Kansas State and latecomer Tennessee.
Herman "Tree" Harried, who coached Barton and his older brother, Will, at Lake Clifton, said last week that Antonio has not demonstrated how talented he is because he often played in the shadow of Will and others.
A perfect example, Harried said, were their roles on an undefeated state championship team in 2008-09.
"When we had our 28-0 team here, I recognized how gifted he was," Harried said. "People don't realize that as good as Will was and all the hype that came with him, Antonio was the whole key to our success. It's important for him to be in the driver's seat. Here, he was the driver and Will was the passenger."
When the brothers made it clear to college recruiters they wanted to go to school together, it might have limited the number of coaches interested. Those in the running for Will Barton, who was considered a better prospect, backed off. Those who wanted Antonio Barton cooled because they realized they had no shot at Will.
Many thought the younger of the Barton brothers was a throw-in to a package deal when Josh Pastner brought them to Memphis. But Antonio Barton put up solid numbers as a freshman — 8.2 points in a little under 25 minutes a game — before a foot injury his sophomore year began to limit his role.
Barton's playing time (16.7 minutes) and productivity (5.6 points, 1.1 assists) dwindled last season to career lows. When fellow junior Joe Jackson announced he was returning for his senior year rather than make himself available for the NBA draft, Barton decided it was time to leave after finishing his undergraduate degree this summer. He will be immediately eligible in 2013-14.
"I think his management of a situation like that shows his character," Harried said. "Most young men and most young people, the first time something doesn't go their way, they have a habit of bailing out. He's never bailed out. I have more respect for him working it out.
"It shows he can deal with adversity and work with a situation that should have been better. He's never said anything bad about Joe Jackson and I know he won't say anything bad about him. He just stuck it out and made the best of it — and graduated. You obviously have to be a very tough-minded young man to do that."
Pastner said Friday that he tried to convince Barton to finish out his career at Memphis, but knew Barton was going to compete with Jackson, a Memphis native, and others for playing time. Pastner said he has remained on good terms with Barton and believes the coach who gets him will be getting a "hard-nosed kid who plays with a chip on his shoulder."
Pastner said he expects Barton to have the same kind of success with his new school.
"He won us a lot of games," Pastner said. "He hit a lot of big shots."
Anthony "Doodie" Lewis, who coached Barton on an AAU team based at the Cecil Kirk Recreation Center, said he wasn't surprised by the way Antonio handled the diminishing role at Memphis.
"Antonio was always mature," Lewis said last week. "He had a lot of maturity about him when he was young."
Lewis and others who know the brothers believe that Antonio is now simply trying to carve his own identity. As close as he remains to Will, who recently finished his rookie year with the Portland Trailblazers after being a second-round draft pick last June, Antonio also wants to get out of his big brother's shadow even though his brother is no longer at Memphis.
"That's not unusal. Most siblings want to carve out their own identity, they don't want to be known all the time as someone's little brother," Lewis said. "There's a competitive nature, but he has the utmost respect for Will. It's not a rivalry. I think he's a qualty player in his own right. Any program that's going to get him is going to be getting a quality kid and a quality point guard."
Harried said he has seen Antonio Barton's growth the past few years off the court.
"Antonio used to have more of a laid-back personality than Will and that put him in a back seat because Will was a little more aggressive and got more attention," Harried said. "He's come out of his own, which I knew would eventually happen. … He's a hard-working, loyal, talented young man that happens to be a basketball player."
Harried, who played college basketball at Syracuse, thinks that wherever the younger of the Barton brothers winds up, fans might be surprised and his next coach might get more than Pastner got at Memphis.
"I know he hasn't shown what he's capable of doing," Harried said. "Wherever he ends up going, and God-willing he stays healthy and doesn't have any injuries or anything like that, the NCAA has not seen the best of Antonio Barton. No doubt in my mind it hasn't."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun