Will Barton has long been known as one of the more charismatic young players, dating back to when he first emerged on the AAU circuit coming out of Baltimore. The 6-6 guard received every accolade that a high school player could receive, while playing the game with an infectious smile on his face the entire time. Holding offers from every school in the country, Barton opted to play with his brother Antonio for Josh Pastner at the University of Memphis.
Barton shined in his two years as Tiger, though the team struggled to live up to the lofty pre-season expectations set forth upon it. He scored 12 points per game in his freshman campaign, and then took the next step during his sophomore season, improving in all aspects of his game to win Conference USA Player of The Year honors. In fact, Barton’s averages of 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the field placed him higher than every first round wing draft prospect in all of those categories, respectively. Statistically speaking, there is no better two guard in the draft. Still, many question Barton’s decision, believing another year of added strength would help develop an NBA frame.
“The criticism doesn’t bother me at all. People have questioned me ever since I stepped on the court saying I’m too skinny and everything,” the remarkably confident 21-year old explained. “Proving the critics wrong isn’t new territory to me.”
Taking that confidence with him to his pre-draft training, there wasn’t purer scorer in John Lucas’ gym throughout our time in Houston. Matched up against bigger wings such as Khris Middleton, Anthony Jones and Quincy Miller, he was going up against NBA size every single day and still managed to get his. He showed off an improved mid-range game and remarkable passing ability for a wing, which is something that you always didn’t see at Memphis given his duty to put points on the board for the team. His slick handle for a guard will allow him to play and defend multiple positions in the league. Even with all that talent, there are still a few areas that Barton is really focusing on sharpening up.
“I’m really working on staying consistent with my jumper out to the NBA three point line,” he answered when asked what he was working on the most with Coach Lucas. “I am also focusing a lot on my defense because I’m going to have to defend a lot of different types of guys at the next level.”
Working out for nearly a dozen teams, it seems as if Barton has found a home for himself in the first round with his versatility and scoring ability. A few teams in the late lottery have expressed major interest and it appears as if the workouts will continue up until draft night. From what he’s told us, Barton’s perceived lack of strength at just 175 pounds hasn’t hurt him workouts, though like all of us, he admitted he has no idea where he’s going to wind up next Thursday.
“I’ve still got Memphis, Indiana, Milwaukee, and a whole lot more,” Barton recounted when asked about which teams he’s scheduled to work out for. “Honestly man, I’ve got so many workouts left that I can’t even think of them off of the top of my head.”