University of Florida

Canyon Barry excelling in lone season with Gators

Florida guard Canyon Barry (24) was named Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year on Monday.
Florida guard Canyon Barry (24) was named Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year on Monday. AP

Each time Florida graduate transfer Canyon Barry finds his way to the free-throw line, his stance is the same.

He rests his feet shoulder-width apart to have a secure grounding. He cocks his wrists to get in position. And then, Barry said, it’s all in the legs.

He squats, keeping his back and arms perfectly straight, before rolling through into his underhanded free throw. It’s the same setup his dad, former University of Miami hoopster and NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, used during his playing days.

And so far, the technique has worked for the younger Barry just like it did for his dad.

“They can’t laugh at you if you make them,” Canyon Barry said.

No. 17 Florida (24-7) is hoping he keeps making them as the Gators try to make a deep run in the Southeastern Conference tournament to give the team one final push for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Heading into the Gators’ first conference tournament game Friday, Barry leads the team, is second in the SEC and 32nd nationally with an 87.8 percent efficiency at the free-throw line.

He set a UF record with 42 consecutive makes at the line, a stretch that lasted 11 games in the heart of the regular season.

“When he hits a shot or he gets fouled, guys just kind of exhale,” UF coach Mike White said. “And they feel, ‘Here comes Canyon, lifting us up.’ … He’s a pleasure to coach. He’s been very, very valuable to this team.”

It’s a science, something Barry knows far too well as a student in UF’s nuclear engineering master’s program, where he holds a 4.0 GPA.

“The main thing is just getting the feel,” said Barry, who graduated from College of Charleston with a physics degree and earned a pair of academic All-America honors before transferring to UF in May.

“I hovered around 75 percent for a while, and then last year the muscle memory finally clicked where I feel like it’s automatic.”

Barry said the move to Florida was both for academic reasons as much if not more than athletic reasons. UF offers a top nuclear engineering program and has its own nuclear training reactor on campus.

After his basketball career is over — and Barry isn’t putting a timeframe on that — Barry said he hopes to land a job revolving around either nuclear power or radiation detection.

“I think time management is the most important thing,” Barry said of balancing his graduate work with basketball. “Just doing your work when you have some free time. It’s one of those things that you’ve done it for four years, so now at this point it’s kind of just routine.”

Barry’s success, however, hasn’t been limited to the charity stripe or the classroom.

As Florida’s top option off the bench, the 6-6, 215-pound guard is second on the team at 12.5 points per game on 43 percent shooting, which helped him earn the SEC Sixth Man of the Year award on Monday.

“Not everyone can handle that, as we know,” White said. “Canyon has. … It’s an absolute luxury.”

He led the team in scoring nine times this season and posted four games with at least 20 points, highlighted by a 30-point outburst during Florida’s 114-95 win over Auburn on Feb. 14. Barry is tied for second on the team with 41 three-pointers.

“He catches it ready to shoot,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “And when he’s ready to shoot, that means the guy that closes out is going to be off-balanced, and he takes advantage of that.”

And he fits in almost flawlessly with his team, a group that took him in from the start and shares the common goal of making a deep postseason run.

“My teammates really just welcomed me, which was big,” Barry said.

“Being a fifth-year guy coming in only having one year, that’s kind of one of the things you worry about is how well the chemistry is going to be, how well you fit in.”