Mar 23, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) attempts to dribble by Memphis Tigers guard Antonio Barton (2) and guard Geron Johnson (55) in the first half during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at The Palace. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Antonio Barton saga will be coming to a close Sunday afternoon as his brother, Portland Trail Blazers forward Will Barton, said via Twitter early Wednesday morning that his brother intended to make his decision after church.
Three schools are thought to be in the running for the former Memphis guard’s services: Maryland, Tennessee, and Syracuse (thought to be the long shot with incoming freshman Tyler Ennis taking over). Barton visited Tennessee sometime last week, and Maryland about a weekend before that, as he listened to what each school had to offer.
Barton decided to graduate early this summer and forgo his final year at Memphis, where he played for the previous three seasons. He saw his minutes diminish each year with the Tigers, and opted to transfer following their loss to Michigan State in the third round of the NCAA tournament — a game in which he only played one minute.
The Terrapins can offer Barton a starting point guard role on the team, as their former floor general Pe’Shon Howard opted to transfer out of Maryland himself. With only sophomore Seth Allen and incoming freshman Roddy Peters to run the point, the Terrapins can assure Barton the starting minutes he is likely seeking.
In addition, Maryland is very close to where Barton grew up in Baltimore, and the fact that he has a 4-year old daughter in the area may also play a factor in his decision to come home (though he has stated it will not). Barton is also very close friends with current Terrapin player Nick Faust, and has very strong ties to the area where he played AAU basketball (for the Baltimore Stars) right around the corner.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon wants to bring Barton on board for his experience (he has played on three NCAA tournament teams). and because he would then be able to move Seth Allen to his natural position (shooting guard) with the acquisition. Barton is a knock down three-point shooter, connecting on 40% or better from deep all three years at Memphis. The move would allow the Terrapins to fully replace scholarships lost from Alex Len (NBA), Pe’Shon Howard (transfer), James Padgett (graduated), and Logan Aronhalt (graduated).
Meanwhile, Tennessee swooped in late in the game but appears to be a contender for Barton’s services. Tennessee started pursuing Barton after their two-year starting guard Trae Golden decided to transfer out, reportedly due to academic issues. Golden averaged 12 points per game for Tennessee last season.
Last year, Tennessee was a 20-13 NIT team, but the Vols bring back a first-team SEC guard Jordan McRae and look to be building off a strong foundation. Tennessee would likely hand the starting job over to Barton upon arrival, given that their backcourt depth just got a lot thinner.
Should he decide to attend Tennessee, Barton would be remaining in the state where he played the entirety of his college career. Knoxville is about six hours away from Memphis on the opposite side of the state, but remaining in the same area may become a deciding factor.
You have to believe at this point that Barton is highly considering Maryland, given the high praise he had for the university following his visit and the close proximity to friends and family in the Baltimore area. Still, it’s difficult to count out Tennessee, since they are offering a very similar situation to Barton in terms of playing time, which appears to be the biggest factor. Syracuse, at this point, has reportedly backed off, so this is more like a two-horse race now.
Either way, whichever school Barton decides to choose, the saga will be over by Sunday afternoon.