For Florida guard Canyon Barry, the youngest son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry, the basketball bloodlines run deep and wide. One tributary flowed through Lexington three decades ago.
His mother, then known as Lynn Norenberg, was a graduate assistant for the Kentucky women’s team in the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons. She marvels how the basketball gods will have her in Gainesville on Saturday watching Canyon play against UK.
“I’m just constantly amazed how that thread of basketball just weaves through our lives,” she said.
Canyon, a graduate transfer playing one final college season for Florida, first played for the College of Charleston. The Cougars played at William & Mary, which retired Lynn’s jersey in recognition of her 1,500 career points. The team also played at Miami, where Rick was an All-American and had his jersey retired.
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“What are the odds?” Lynn said.
When College of Charleston played William & Mary, Lynn’s son played against Omar Prewitt, the son of Lea Wise, one of the UK players when Lynn was a graduate assistant.
“He was exposed to basketball, obviously, from a very early age,” Lynn said. “But we also tried our very best to expose him to a lot of different things. I kind of saw with Rick’s other boys that the path in basketball is kind of tough because you’re always compared to your father.
“I wanted to make sure Canyon went into basketball because he wanted to, not because he felt obligated to.”
Canyon played football, baseball and volleyball. He won state championships in tennis and badminton at Cheyenne Mountain High School, which is in Colorado Springs, Colo. Lynn and Rick live half the year in Colorado and half in Florida.
Canyon was also involved in Boy Scouts. The Gainesville Sun reported that he also taught himself to play guitar, trombone and ukulele.
Canyon has been described as a perfect basketball fit for Florida. When asked about that label, Coach Mike White makes sure it’s known that Canyon is more than a shooter.
“He’s in the spotlight for being a guy who’s scoring for us . . .,” White said. Canyon is the Gators’ second-leading scorer with an average of 12.6 points.
I meet with my guys daily, and his meetings are often pretty quick because my guilty conscience tells me, ‘Let him get back to being a nuclear engineer. He doesn’t need to spend more than three minutes with me.’ He’s got stuff he’s studying that would take me 30 years to comprehend.
Mike White, Florida head coach
“Equally as important, he’s provided another veteran in the locker room,” White said. “He provides an experienced basketball mind. He’s a kid with leadership characteristics. He’s an unselfish kid who really wants to win. He’s a breath of fresh air.”
Of course, shooting makes Canyon easy to identify on the court. Like his father, he’s the player shooting free throws underhanded.
Florida ranked 12th among Southeastern Conference teams in free-throw accuracy last season. So it seemed logical that Canyon would try to persuade his teammates to shoot underhanded.
“He tried to no avail . . . ,” White said in October. “Definitely a lot of resistance.”
White stopped short of agreeing with the premise that players, generally, do not think shooting underhanded looks cool.
“I don’t want to say that,” the Florida coach said, “because then I’m dogging Rick Barry’s free-throw style, and it went in a lot.”
Rick Barry led the NBA in free-throw accuracy seven times. In his pro career, he made 89.3 percent of his free throws. His best season was 1978-79 when he made 160 of 169 foul shots (94.7 percent).
The accuracy by father and son makes it difficult for the Barrys to understand the resistance to shooting free throws underhanded.
“That’s just what astounds us,” Lynn said. “If you’re really bad at shooting free throws, why wouldn’t you try anything possible to make yourself better?”
Canyon, who leads Florida in free-throw accuracy (87.5 percent), also excels in the classroom. He was the valedictorian of his high school class, and had a 4.0 grade-point average as a physics major at College of Charleston.
At Florida, Canyon is pursuing an interest in nuclear engineering. He’s interested in how nuclear could be part of any future move to clean energy.
“We’re the only mother-son combination to be first-team academic All-Americans,” said Lynn, who had a 3.97 GPA in kinesiology at William & Mary. “The Barry family trivia is scintillating, isn’t it?”
87.5 Canyon Barry’s free-throw shooting percentage this season. His father led the NBA in free-throw accuracy seven times. They both shoot underhanded.
White acknowledged how Canyon’s intelligence can impact a coach’s thinking.
“It’s incredible,” the Florida coach said. “I meet with my guys daily, and his meetings are often pretty quick because my guilty conscience tells me, ‘Let him get back to being a nuclear engineer. He doesn’t need to spend more than three minutes with me.’
“He’s got stuff he’s studying that would take me 30 years to comprehend.”
Canyon’s intelligence translates to basketball.
“He rarely makes a scouting report mistake,” White said.
But, of course, Canyon is not perfect. He makes mistakes.
That’s just what astounds us. If you’re really bad at shooting free throws, why wouldn’t you try anything possible to make yourself better?
Lynn Barry, on the argument that shooting free throws underhanded doesn’t look cool
“I remember telling him in front of the team, ‘Canyon, how dare you make a mistake? You’re a nuclear engineer,’” White said. “We’re proud he’s a Gator.”
As for being a “Canyon,” Lynn explained how she and Rick decided the name for their son.
“We were rafting in the Grand Canyon,” she said. “I suspected I might be pregnant. We jokingly said, ‘Hah, hah, if I am, let’s name the kid Canyon.’ Then I was.
“We never found a name we liked better. It’s definitely kind of a cool name, I think, and definitely a Colorado name.”
No. 8 Kentucky at No. 24 Florida
8:15 p.m. (ESPN)