Cat Barber went into his junior season at N.C. State thinking about the NBA.
After leading the ACC in scoring and earning all-conference honors, Barber will make the jump into the NBA draft. The junior point guard made the decision Tuesday to hire an agent and skip his senior season to chase his NBA dream.
“I feel like it’s time for me to move on and take my game to the next level,” Barber wrote in a text message.
Barber averaged 23.5 points per game this season while rarely leaving the court. He led the ACC in minutes played (38.7 per game).
“I want everyone to know I gave it 100 percent every night,” Barber texted.
Barber said before the ACC tournament he would go through the draft process with the possibility of returning for his senior season. But his mother, Pam, said Tuesday that he and his family had a preliminary meeting in Norfolk, Va. with agent Sunny Shah last week and decided it would be better to make a full commitment to draft preparation.
“He enjoyed his run and he loves the fans,” Pam Barber said. “But this is his dream and he’s not doing this for show.”
Barber, who’s 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, is projected as a second-round pick by draft web sites NBADraft.net and Draft Express.
Barber showed tremendous improvement from the middle of his sophomore year throughout his standout junior season. He averaged 12.1 points in a supporting role in 2014-15 and added more than 11 points per game to his average this past season.
He might have to show the same type of improvement at the NBA combine May 11-15 to jump up into the first round of the June 23 draft.
Pam Barber wasn’t worried about her son’s draft stock.
“He didn’t come out to be in the second round,” she said.
This is the third straight year N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried has lost his leading scorer early to the NBA draft. T.J. Warren was a lottery pick by the Phoenix Suns in 2014 and Trevor Lacey went undrafted in 2015.
Lacey’s decision caught Gottfried off guard last April and ultimately contributed to N.C. State’s 16-17 record this past season. But the Wolfpack coach was prepared for Barber’s decision.
“This is 100 percent different,” Gottfried said on Tuesday. “He and I have talked a number of times and this was somewhat inevitable. We were able to anticipate this and recruit and plan for it.”
N.C. State already has Barber’s replacement at point guard on campus. Freshman Dennis Smith, a five-star prospect out of Fayetteville, enrolled in January and sat on the bench for the ACC schedule.
Smith didn’t play this season while he rehabbed from a major knee injury. He’s expected to make a full recovery by the start of the 2016-17 season.
Gottfried supports Barber’s decision and believes Barber’s natural skill set will give him a chance to impress NBA scouts.
“I believe he has the speed and quickness to play in that league,” Gottfried said. “My hope is he can climb his way up the draft. I’m going to help him in any way that I can.”
Part of Barber’s decision to leave was based on how well he played this season but also the need to care for his family. He has a 14-month-old daughter back in his hometown of Newport News, Va.
“I want to be able to provide for my family,” Barber wrote in a text message.