Antonio Barton’s trip home to Baltimore in a couple of weeks will center around the birthday party for his daughter, Skyy, who is turning 4.
Barton, who received his release from Memphis after playing for the Tigers the past three seasons, said the Terps are among two dozen teams that have contacted him. And Barton acknowledged that Maryland is among a much shorter list of serious contenders.
Both Turgeon and assistant coach Bino Ranson, who grew up in Baltimore and oversees the program’s recruiting in the city, have spoken by telephone with Barton. The 6-foot-2 point guard has also heard from Maryland guard Nick Faust, a close friend and Barton’s godbrother.
“[Faust] said it would be a perfect fit for me inside and outside the program,” Barton said.
From what Barton has seen of the Terps on television, he doesn’t disagree.
“I think it’s a great system, and a great system for me,” he said, adding that other schools he is considering also play a style that fits his skills.
Other schools that Barton verified were on the list include Syracuse and Kansas State. Like Maryland, those schools are also in need of an experienced point guard. Kansas State assistant coach Chester Frazier is from Baltimore and, like Barton, played for Lake Clifton and the Cecil Kirk-based Amateur Athletic Union team.
Asked to compare his game to when he came out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts after three years at Lake Clifton, Barton said, “I’m a lot smarter. You better as you get older. I know the ins and outs of being a point guard. I know how to set guys up even better.”
The Terps are also reportedly considering Vertrail Vaughns, who played three years at George Mason and like Barton is expected to graduate this summer.
Under NCAA rules, a player who graduates in three years can transfer and play at another school immediately if the new school has a graduate program that the player’s former school doesn’t. Typically, transfers need to sit out a year.
Barton said he has one class remaining in the first summer school session in Memphis, and he expects to receive a degree in leisure and sports management in June. Barton said he is not sure what he will pursue academically as a graduate student.
Barton said this decision is strictly based on playing time. After playing nearly 25 minutes per game and averaging 8.2 points as a freshman, Barton saw his playing time cut to 16.7 minutes as a junior, playing behind Memphis native Joe Jackson.
When Jackson announced last month that he would return for his senior year, Barton asked for and was granted his release. Both he and Memphis coach Josh Pastner said there are no hard feelings. “Antonio did everything right when he was here,” Pastner said recently.
Asked if family ties could factor into his decision this time — as they did when he went to Memphis with brother Will, now with the Portland Trail Blazers — Barton said, “It’s just the basketball. Trying to find a perfect school to fit me, fit my game, where I’ll be on the court and showcase my full potential and talent my last year.”
Barton said his mother, Karen Bush, and other relatives in Baltimore, have made their feelings known but are leaving the final decision to him.
“They haven’t been really pressuring me,” he said. “They have brought it up [about coming home]. They do want to come to my games, and I do want to be around my child. Wherever I go I’ll be there for only a few months. They just want to do what’s best for me and where I feel comfortable.”
Said Bush, who cares for her granddaughter in Baltimore, “My job is to support my children wherever they might be. My job is to support him the best I can and get his daughter to him wherever he may be. We’ll make it work.”
Barton said his brother has told him “to take my time, to do my research for me to make the best decision.”
Bush said the current situation “is like him going from high school to college all over again” but that her 21-year-old son is mature enough to make a good decision considering what he has accomplished.
“Antonio has been a full-time student, a full-time dad and a full-time basketball player,” she said. “That’s a lot.”