Ames residents watching Tar Heel Harrison Barnes play against the Ohio University Bobcats tonight might see some other familiar, but less famous, faces if they scan the crowd for a dedicated group wearing his No. 40 jersey.
His Ames High School Spanish teacher Jane Jurgensen and some friends drove to Saint Louis Thursday where University of North Carolina faces Ohio at 6:47 p.m. tonight. The basketball game will be televised on TBS.
“Oh he is fabulous to watch,” Jurgensen said. “All of the players are phenomenal.”
Jurgensen said it will be her 13th live UNC game. She most recently watched Barnes, a 2010 Ames High graduate, play in Atlanta.
“I promised that I would go out and see him play once and it evolved from there,” Jurgensen said.
Now she owns a wardrobe of Tar Heel clothing. And after watching him play in Chapel Hill, N.C., Jurgensen said that she understood why he went there, though she was a fan of the Duke Blue Devils, an instate rival of UNC.
“It just felt right, it was the perfect match,” Jurgensen said of Barnes and UNC.
She said UNC plays with passion and intensity.
“That's what Harrison brings to his game,” Jurgensen said.
The serious student drew teachers, friends and class mates to Ames Little Cyclones basketball games.
Jurgensen tried to watch all of Barnes' games his last two years of high school.
If Jurgensen missed one, Barnes would stop her in the hallway and tell her how many points he scored, she said. Then Barnes would add, “And you weren't there to see it.”
Barnes' Little Cyclones teammates included Doug McDermott, Bubu Palo and Jesse Pritchard. Palo and Pritchard graduated in 2009, one year before McDermott and Barnes. McDermott signed with Creighton University, Palo plays for Iowa State University and Pritchard plays for Yale University, said Ames High Little Cyclones Basketball Coach Vance Downs.
“We had a very talented group that came through in a three year span,” Downs said.
Ames High Little Cyclones sold out all but one or two games the last two years Barnes' was in high school, he said.
“It was a capacity crowd whether we were home or on the road,” Downs said. “It's fair to say Harrison was the lead draw in that.”
Downs has also traveled to watch Barnes, but tonight he will watch from the screen as well as many other Ames residents.
“Obviously I'll be watching,” Downs said. “We are very excited.”
Jurgensen admits that she didn't really know who Barnes was the first day he took a seat in her classroom, but she'll remain one of his biggest fans no matter where his basketball career takes him.
“Wherever he goes, we will follow. Poor guy,” Jurgensen said.
Want to learn the story behind Barnes' four names? Read the NewsObserver.Com story here.