Former College of Charleston star Canyon Barry finds success at Florida
Canyon Barry doesn’t have a typical course load this semester.
But then again, Barry isn’t a typical student.
The former College of Charleston basketball star is taking graduate-level classes in radiation detections and nuclear materials at the University of Florida. In his spare time, Barry does research on neutron multiplicity using helium for detectors. “It would take too long to explain what it is,” he said by phone Tuesday.
Barry’s goal is to earn a masters degree in nuclear engineering. Florida is one of the few colleges in the country that actually has a nuclear reactor on campus.
It’s one of the reasons the Colorado Springs, Co., native was drawn to the Gainesville, Fla., school after graduating from the College of Charleston. That and Florida’s nationally ranked basketball team on which Barry has become a key contributor this season.
The 19th-ranked Gators will travel to Columbia to take on No. 24 South Carolina Wednesday night at the Colonial Life Arena. The 6:30 p.m. game will be televised by SEC Network.
When Barry graduated summa cum laude with a degree in physics from the College of Charleston last June, he had one day to celebrate. The next day he packed up his car and made the six-hour trek from the Lowcountry to Gainesville.
“I didn’t get much of a break before I was down in Gainesville and going to class and working out again,” Barry said.
Barry spent four years at the College of Charleston where he became famous for his granny-style free throws, something he learned from his father, former NBA great Rick Barry.
Barry announced at the end of last season that he was transferring for his final season of eligibility. Barry had redshirted during his first season with the Cougars so he still had a year of eligibility remaining. As a graduate student, under NCAA rules, Barry was immediately eligible to play at another school.
Before getting injured last season against William & Mary, Barry had led the Cougars and the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring, averaging nearly 20 points a game. Before enrolling at Florida, Barry was a hot commodity on the transfer market, widely considered to be one of the top graduate players available.
“From an educational and athletic standpoint, Florida had everything I was looking for,” Barry said.
When he arrived on the Florida campus, Barry said the transition was made easier by his new teammates. In Barry’s last year at College of Charleston he had seen first hand a fellow teammate – Winthrop’s James Bourne – make a similar transition.
“I was on the other side when I came down here and remembered how James had kind of handled things,” Barry said. “I can’t say enough good things about the guys here at Florida. They’ve welcomed me from the very beginning. I get along really well with all of them and that made it super easy for me.”
Barry was coming off of shoulder surgery when he arrived in Gainesville last summer and couldn’t take part in full contact or pick-up games for a few weeks.
“I think that was the toughest part,” said Barry, who had surgery last January. “I had that surgery, I hadn’t played in like six or seven months, so at times it was like I was starting all over again.”
Besides the nuclear engineering program, Barry was also hoping that by transferring to an SEC school it might put him on the radar of more NBA scouts.
“The CAA had some great players, guys who could play in the NBA, but every night I’m playing against guys that have that potential,” Barry said. “With the injury, it took me a little while to get back to being used to the speed of the game. At times I felt like I was a redshirt freshman all over again making that transition from the high school to college level.”
Barry has primarily come off the bench for the Gators. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.8 points a game and 3.5 rebounds. The last four games, Barry has settled into a good offensive rhythm, averaging 18.8 points. He is coming off a 27-point effort in an 80-76 win over Georgia.
“I think there’s always going to be a transition and adjustment period,” Barry said. “I’m kind of settling into the offense, getting into the flow of things and getting used to playing with the personnel here at Florida and building up the chemistry between us.”
Florida coach Mike White said he knew it wouldn’t take long for Barry to become an impact player for the Gators.
“He’s a very talented kid and he’s brought a lot of experience and leadership to this team,” White said. “As of late he’s really started to become a shot maker for us. He’s really driven the ball well. At first he was getting a lot of his production from driving the ball to the basket and getting to the free throw line. Now, he has started to make shots and that has complimented his ability to get to the rim.”
Despite his absence from the Lowcountry, Barry still stays in touch with his former College of Charleston teammates. He said he’s thrilled to see the Cougars, who are 15-4 and 6-0 in the CAA, thrive this season.
“I still have a lot of really good friends on that team,” Barry said. “I’m so happy for those guys and coach (Earl) Grant. I hope they can run through the CAA and make it the NCAA Tournament.”
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said containing Barry will be a key for the Gamecocks Wednesday night.
“Early on, I thought he was a little up and down with his production,” Martin said. “Over the last two weeks, I think you’re starting to see that he’s establishing himself as a consistent scorer for that basketball team, which doesn’t surprise me.”