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Accolades come early for North Carolina's Harrison Barnes

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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North Carolina's Harrison Barnes won't make his collegiate debut for almost another two weeks, but the prized forward accomplished something on Monday that no other freshman has ever done.

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Barnes became the first freshman named to the AP's Preseason All-American team since voting began 24 years ago.

The selection of Barnes represents another sign of how freshman-heavy college hoops has become since the NBA began requiring players to be at least a year out of high school before entering the league The rule change ensured more NBA-caliber talent would pass through college basketball for at least one season, yet it also ensured that the sport's best players are often the youngest.

In the five years since the one-and-done rule went into effect, six freshman have been named to the AP's five-member first-team All-American squad at the end of a season. That list includes Texas' Kevin Durant and Ohio State's Greg Oden in 2007, UCLA's Kevin Love and Kansas State's Michael Beasley in 2008, and Kentucky's John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins last season.

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The 6-foot-7 Barnes is as decorated as any of those players were entering college. He averaged 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Ames High School in Iowa last year, earning scholarship offers from nearly every elite program and emerging as the consensus No. 1 recruit in his high school class.

Because of the unusually high number of underclassmen who left for the NBA this past spring, it would not be all that shocking if another freshman besides Barnes made the postseason all-American team. There aren't many frontcourt players in college hoops more talented than Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, and some analysts are already suggesting that Duke's Kyrie Irving may be the best point guard in the nation.

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