After visiting Maryland last week, it appeared as if Memphis transfer Antonio Barton was headed home. The senior point guard from Baltimore, who should be eligible to play right away next season after graduating this summer, said that he got a good feel from the coaches, players and athletic director Kevin Anderson.
It appears now that the Terps have some new competition for Barton from Tennessee. Barton was in Knoxville "Wednesday or Thursday," according to a source.
Another source close to Barton told me last week that the decision could come “very soon” and all signs pointed toward College Park. His family in Baltimore, which includes 4-year-old daughter Skyy, wanted to be able to see him play at Comcast Center. He is already close with Maryland guard Nick Faust, his godbrother. But nothing has happened yet.
Initially, it was thought that Maryland’s main competitor in this recruiting battle was going to be Syracuse, where another close friend of the former Lake Clifton standout has become one of the team’s stars. But C.J. Fair’s influence did not weigh as heavily as the impending arrival of 5-star freshman point guard Tyler Ennis. Texas A&M, which Barton reportedly visited, has also fallen off the radar.
Tennessee’s emergence came a week after junior Trae Golden, a two-year starter who averaged 12.1 points and 3.9 assists last season, announced he was transferring. There were reports in Knoxville that he left amid serious academic issues. The 20-13 Vols were an NIT team like Maryland last season, and return first-team SEC guard Jordan McCrae and second-team forward Jarnell Stokes.
What one Maryland source said he thought was “a layup” last week when it came to Barton appears to be a 3-point shot.
Knowing how much Mark Turgeon wants Barton, it seems likely that the Terps will start pressing the Vols fullcourt.
In Cuonzo Martin’s first year as coach of the Vols in 2011-12, Barton had two of his best games in his three seasons with the Tigers.
In a 99-97 overtime victory in the Maui Invitational early in the season, Barton scored a career-high 21 points, shooting 8-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-point shots. He also had six rebounds.
Later in the season, Barton helped the Tigers to a 69-51 win in Memphis with 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 4-for-5 on 3s.
Interestingly, in the game in Hawaii and again last season -- when Barton played only 12 minutes and scored just five points -- Barton didn’t have a single assist.