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Northeastern’s Jose Juan Barea

March 7, 2003 Columns No Comments



America East Profile: Northeastern’s Jose Juan Barea

by Phil Kasiecki

Art Alvarez, the colorful head coach of national high school power Miami Christian, tried to tell the big-time schools in Florida about Jose Juan Barea, but they wouldn’t listen. Now, a school up in Boston is glad those schools passed on him.

Things are starting to look up again on Huntington Ave, and the freshman point guard from Puerto Rico is a big part of it.

Barea played one year of high school basketball and started to learn English, as well as adapt to the style and rules of basketball in the United States. He has played international basketball for Puerto Rico for several years, most recently as a team captain for the championship team from the 2002 FIBA Pan American Junior Basketball Championship in Venezuela. Prior to that, he played at the Global Games in Dallas last July, and according to one writer, played very well. He felt that helped him prepare for Division I as much as any of his high school experiences, about which he simply said, “That was the best tournament I played in.”

Northeastern’s head coach Ron Everhart likes his experience, as well as his maturity, while also repeating an age-old quote about freshmen late in their rookie season.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” Everhart said. “He’s not a freshman any longer, he’s almost a sophomore.”

His play at the college level has certainly made the cliché stand up, as Barea wasted little time making an impact. He opened the season with 18 points and 4 assists against Rhode Island from the Atlantic Ten, and just a week and a half later, had 24 points in a near-upset of New Mexico. Later, he had 19 points and 5 assists as the Huskies upset Boston College, the biggest non-conference win for the program in several years. It was a game he and the Huskies eagerly awaited, especially since they had lost a tough one to another Big East team, Providence, just over a week prior to it.

“I especially like big games like that, where you go against people like Troy Bell,” Barea said of the game.

He didn’t stop there, as he made a clutch three-pointer in their upset of Boston University earlier in the season, and would be named the conference’s Rookie of the Week five times during the season. He finished the regular season fourth in the conference in scoring, assists, and free throw percentage, tied for third in steals, and seventh in field goal percentage.

Late in the regular season, Barea was suspended for three games by the NCAA due to some of his international play. When he came back, he initially struggled, as did the team. Everhart thinks the suspension hurt more than one might initially think, despite the excellent play of senior point guard Jamaar Walker at the point.

“Coming back from the suspension, I think he lost his edge,” Everhart said. He felt it also disrupted the team’s chemistry, which has already been hurt by numerous injuries over the course of the season.

Barea is part of a Miami connection on the Huskies that has been well-chronicled this season. Three of his teammates – juniors Sylbrin Robinson, Cornellius Wright and Javorie Wilson – all played at Miami Senior High School under current assistant Frank Martin, as did Miami transfer Marcus Barnes, who is sitting out this season. Freshmen Adrian Martinez and Gene Oliynyk, the latter a native of the Ukraine, also have Miami ties. Robinson, who had a career-high 21 points against Boston College, finished the regular season tied for the lead in rebounding in the conference and was third on the team in scoring, while Wilson was second on the team in scoring.

The Huskies finished sixth in America East, and will be the fifth seed in the upcoming conference tournament since Binghamton finished ahead of them. In addition to the Miami players, sophomore guard Aaron Davis has played well despite an up-and-down season battling shoulder problems (he has not practiced at all, as his shoulder has popped out many times and will require surgery after the season). The aforementioned Walker is the only senior on the team, a steady pass-first floor leader who makes good decisions and rarely turns the ball over. Barea mentioned Walker as a teammate who has really helped him along the way.

The Huskies are just the kind of upstart that could make a surprise run in the conference tournament. Barea thinks this team has a good chance.

“We’re going to play hard,” he said. “We’re going to practice hard all this week, and come out on Sunday ready to win the game.”

Barea is undecided about his post-basketball plans, though he hopes to play professionally. For now, he’s enjoying the college life, much as he’s still getting used to the idea of snow from the terrible winter in the Boston area. Asked by his coach how much snow he gets in Puerto Rico, he smiles and is at a loss for words.

Everhart feels that the sky is the limit for his young point guard. Fans at Walter Brown Arena will get to see for themselves during the America East Tournament.

Back to the America East Profile index.

     

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