As a freshman at Hawaii, Barnes appeared in 32 games for the Rainbow Warriors, including eight starts. He averaged 6.9 points per game and set a school record for made three point baskets for a freshman with 57 on the year.
Despite his on-court success, Barnes wished to be closer to home and opted to transfer from Hawaii following the 2010-11 season. Immediately Sendek and the Arizona State coaching staff reached out to the 6-4 shooter in hopes of convincing him to return to the desert.
"We sat down and we talked with him and his mom and explained that we would love to have him but we did not have a scholarship available," Sendek told members of the media on Tuesday. "So he literally came without a scholarship and then after his year of residence, the year he sat out, we gave him a scholarship.
"He didn't play much at all last year. Started the same way this year then things just started to click and come together."
For Barnes, it began in Arizona State's humbling defeat at Arizona two weeks ago. On a night where very little went the way of the Sun Devils, Barnes seized a rare opportunity.
Playing in his first extended minutes of the season, Barnes scored 13 points on 3-5 shooting while filling in for the injured Jermaine Marshall who was sidelined with a groin injury.
"It was big, I would say," recalled Barnes of the Arizona game. "I got some open looks, which was great, and they went in. It's definitely nice to be able to get in a rhythm and to play long enough where you can get into the rhythm of the game and let everything calm down a little bit."
Barnes proved not to be just a one-game wonder in ASU's home sweep of Utah and Colorado last week when he totaled nine points and three rebounds against the Utes on Thursday and seven points and three rebounds against the Buffaloes on Saturday, providing the Sun Devils with a spark off the bench in both games.
This of course coming off a sophomore season, his first in Tempe for the Sun Devils, in which Barnes averaged just 4.1 minutes and 0.5 points per game on 17% shooting, which landed him on the scout team for most of this season leading up to the Arizona game.
"I think he's finally got into a place where he's comfortable enough to do it in games. He's made that transfer," said Sendek. "I think he's just at a place where he found his comfort zone and his confidence has grown, so now some of the things that we saw in practice, we're seeing in the games.
"And he's older now. He's been involved in a lot of practices and has had a good vantage point to see what needs to be done. Like a lot of things, I think he had some success and it just triggered the next good thing and now he has some momentum."
Talking to Barnes on Tuesday, he credits much of his recent turnaround on his daily approach to the game in practice, something he learned from his dad, Jake.
Jake Barnes is a seven-time world champion in team-roping who taught himself how to become a world-class rodeo performer by waking up early each morning, sometimes as early as 4:00 am, to work on his craft, according to Barnes.
It's a trait that he's adopted himself, along with a refusal to give up no matter the situation. After all, his father lost a thumb in rodeo roping accident once during competition, so overcoming a shooting slump pales in comparison in the Barnes‘ household.
"It was hard at times but my dad instilled this quality in me to never give up or quit in anything," he said. "Practice to me was like the games when I wasn't playing, so I just had to go out and play as hard as I could.
"For me, it wasn't too much of an adjustment because I play in practice just as hard as when I'm in the games. Just getting the opportunity was the biggest thing."
The Golden Bears (14-6, 5-2) began conference play 5-0; including winning their first three games against Pac-12 foes on the road, but enter this week on a two game losing skid after being swept in Los Angeles over the weekend.
Cal is led by senior Justin Cobbs who's averaging a career-best 15.3 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists per game, which ranks second in the Pac-12.
"I really like Justin. I think he's a great competitor," said Sendek. "Throughout his career he's demonstrated the ability to score but I think one thing he's really done a great job of is adding the distributing role to his game.
"His assists are up. He's among the nation's leaders in that category and he stills scores and in just the most general sense, he just seems to be a very aggressive offensive player."
Arizona State will then travel to Palo Alto to face Stanford (13-6, 4-3) on Saturday afternoon.
The Sun Devils and Cardinal split their only two meetings last season, with Stanford earning a 62-59 win in Tempe before ASU point guard Jahii Carson returned the favor, torching the Cardinal for 34 points in the Sun Devils‘ opening round win over the Cardinal in the Pac-12 tournament.
"I've maintained all along, I think they're one of the most talented teams that we'll play," commented Sendek. "I think both Cal and Stanford can really score. They score quickly, they score in bunches, and they can score in a variety of ways.
"They're just a tough team to match up with. They have good players who present tough match-ups."
The Cardinal feature a talented front-court in seniors Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, who combined average 25.5 points and nearly 16 rebounds a game.
Jacobsen, who has started the last two games for the Sun Devils, provides the team with not only additional height, but toughness and an improved defensive approach, according to the coach.
"What it does is it gives our team two different looks," he said. "We almost have two teams now built within the same squad. We can play big and that gives us a certain look and then we can play a fourth perimeter player and that gives us an entirely different package.
"Eric is a good defender. Even on the perimeter, he moves his feet very well and he's a smart defender."
Tipoff for Wednesday is set for 9:00 pm Arizona time. The Sun Devils and Golden Bears will be televised on ESPNU.