Evan Barr knew that he'd be getting collegiate attention on Sept. 1, but the Leading Edge 2020 and Somerville goalie wasn't quite sure about who'd be calling.
The re-start of the 2020 recruiting calender after the NCAA rule changes, along with the uncertainty of goalie recruiting, had Barr optimistic but a little unsure.
Sure enough, the phone started ringing early and often, with a bevy of the nation's top programs courting Barr and letting him know that he was high on their radar. One school, though, was a little bit different than the others.
"I got a call from Duke, and I was really surprised," Barr said. "I was very humbled because Duke has an excellent program, and I was really excited and interested to learn more. As soon we got on campus, the campus feel and environment were like no other college that I'd seen."
When he looked at everything that the Durham, N.C. school offered, it made no sense for him to put off his decision. Barr committed to the Blue Devils, a perennial presence in the Final Four for the past decade, becoming the seventh Leading Edge '20 to commit. He joins his teammate, defenseman/LSM Cole Krauss (Delbarton), in Duke's stacked 2020 class.
"Duke is one of the best schools in the world," Barr said. "I had a lot of great options, but Duke has excellent facilities, a great coaching stadf and people that are really passionate about Duke. I found that it was a really big draw for me, just how proud they were to be a part of Duke and wouldn't want to be anywhere else. The whole Leading Edge team is pretty close, and when Cole committed, we talked about a lot about the school and it was cool to hear what he had to say. I'm super excited to be a part of the best 2020 class and to play with some of the best players in the country."
It's a fitting decision to end up as the Blue Devils' goalie of the future for a player who dabbled between goalie and attack until about eighth grade. Barr was often tasked with putting the ball past goalies instead of stopping shots, but the more he played in the cage, the more he felt at home. It didn't hurt to have an excellent first goalie coach in the late, great Kyle Kirst. The former Leading Edge coach worked with him individually early in Barr's career, and Barr credited Kirst with helping him develop a love for the position.
"He worked with me a lot and he helped me with fundamentals, but he was also one of my first role models," Barr said. "I wouldn't be the player or person that I am today without him. I realized that I liked playing goalie more and started to prioritize it. I like the pressure of having the game in your hands. It's a very difficult position, but it's challenging and something I enjoy very much."
Barr wasn't a player who got a ton of recruiting love before the rule change, proving that patience is a virtue in such a tough process. When his play started to take off this spring and continued throughout the summer and fall, he realized he'd have a chance to end up somewhere special, but made it a point to not stress out too much over it.
"I think I realized that I was playing pretty well during the later stages of the summer circuit when the whole team started to do well," Barr said. "We won the Terps Young Gun Shootout, which helped us gel as a team, and when we're playing well as a team, it's because everyone's playing well."
Of course, Barr wouldn't be in this position without plenty of hard work. He routinely puts in the time on his own to work on his footwork and hand speed, even four to five times per week during the action-packed summer schedule. He put together an impressive summer and backed it up with a strong fall, pairing his big frame with an impressive ability to get down and take away low shots.
"Evan's a big goalie who takes up a lot of the net, and he eats up a ton of shots," Leading Edge director Chris Roy said. "He works really hard at his craft and trains with (goaltending legend Brian) Doc (Dougherty) pretty frequently. When he's dialed in, there aren't many, if any, guys better than him in this class. More importantly, he's one of the nicest kids you'll ever meet, and we are absolutely thrilled for him to find a great fit at a tremendous school like Duke."
"Coach Kirst taught me the basics, and Doc really elevated my game to another level," Barr explained. "Coach Roy really helped me develop my mental toughness. If I'm having a bad game, he'll pull me aside and reset me, tell me to forget about it and get the next one, and I really have to thank him for that."
LEADING EDGE 2020 COLLEGE COMMITMENTS
Jack Aimone, midfield, Hunterdon Central - Rutgers Evan Barr, goalie, Somerville - Duke Jack Cooleen, defense, Lawrenceville - Dartmouth (Commitment story) Colin Freer, defense, Westfield - Princeton Connell Kumar, midfield, Seton Hall Prep - Virginia (Commitment story) Cole Krauss, LSM/D, Delbarton - Duke (Commitment story) Kyle Stephenson, midfield, Seton Hall Prep - Rutgers