Saturday night after the Gators had demolished Virginia to advance to a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA East Regional against Wisconsin, Canyon Barry had a rather satisfied look on his face.
“This is why I came here,” Barry said as he looked around at the contented faces in the Florida locker room. “To be a part of this with guys like this … this is why I came to Florida.”
At that moment Kasey Hill stuck his head in and injected, “We would not be here without CB. No way we’d be here without CB.” Barry looked back at Hill, grinned and shot back, “And we aren’t here without KH!”
Hill is the senior leader of this team but he can’t do it all alone. He’s got to have a glue guy to support him and that’s Barry, who didn’t have a big scoring night in either of Florida’s two wins in Orlando that moved them along in the tournament. He scored 7 in the win against East Tennessee and matched that with 7 more against Virginia. He hit only two shots from the field but contributed 9-10 from the foul line. Both wins were blowouts so the points really weren’t all that necessary.
What was necessary was attitude and Canyon Barry has been bringing that in a big way all season. He’s talented enough that he could have demanded more minutes than the 19 or so he averages off the bench and if he played more he would be scoring more than 11.8 points per game.
But minutes and points have never been an issue for Barry, the son of basketball hall of famer Rick Barry, the only man to ever lead the NCAA and two pro leagues in scoring. Canyon has been about fitting in and doing whatever the team needs to get a win.
He’s been the sterling example of team first since he arrived on campus since the day he arrived as a transfer from Charleston, where he averaged nearly 20 points per game.
“He could have come here and made a big deal about starting or getting more shots, but that’s not him,” Chris Chiozza said prior to Florida’s first win in the tournament over East Tennessee State. “He’s all about winning and if that means he’s got to score a lot of points, that’s what he does. If it means doing other things we need, that’s what he does.”
Barry did what he does well enough to earn SEC Sixth Man of the Year but that was mostly about stats. He was the best scorer off the bench in the SEC.
He has never complained about his role. That alone was a good example. That he continued to hustle, to play hard, to be a positive influence on the court, in the locker and away from basketball has endeared him to the team and has contributed mightily to a team that continues to thrive on togetherness. Any conversation you have with anyone on this team always incudes something about the joy these guys are finding in being part of something special.
Last year the Gators went 21-15. Part of that was due to making the transition to a new coach. Going from Billy Donovan to Mike White wasn’t exactly easy. Donovan is a legend who had his way of doing things. White might grow into a coaching legend someday. He has his way of doing things too.
This year the Gators are 26-8 and they suddenly find themselves favored to win the East Regional and advance to the Final Four. Quite a contrast from the team that made it to the third round of the NIT last year.
That NIT team had some talented players but it lacked cohesiveness. There wasn’t a true leader that Hill has become nor was there the glue guy. Hill has done his part and Barry has provided the glue, always leading by example (4.0 in the classroom as a grad student in nuclear engineering) both on and off the court.
“On the court you know he will always do the right thing,” Chiozza said. “Off the court, you know he will always do the right thing.”
Barry simply does what he knows he ought to be doing and it’s made for a very nice ride.
“This is a team that really cares about each other,” Barry said. “We win for each other. This is why I came here.”
GATORS FINALLY WIN ON THE ROAD
The wait for a road win is over as the Gators (14-8) went 11 innings to knock off Stetson, 9-8, in DeLand Tuesday night, ending an 0-6 road streak to start the season. Christian Hicks’ RBI ground out in the top of the 11th delivered the winning run and then Tyler Dyson and Garrett Milchin combined for a 1-2-3 bottom half to save the win.
The encouraging news for the Gators was 13 hits including multi-hit games from three regulars who have been slumping. JJ Schwarz came through with three hits and 2 RBI while Jonathan India went 2-4 with 1 RBI and Mike Rivera went 2-5.
The win was a nice tuneup for the 11th-ranked Gators who host 4th-ranked LSU in a critical early season SEC matchup at McKethan Stadium starting Friday.
WOMEN’S GOLF TEAM WINS TOURNAMENT BY 18 STROKES
Florida’s women’s golf team won its second straight tournament on Tuesday, finishing the Briar’s Creek Invitational with 15-under par for an 18-stroke win over second place Campbell. The three round score of 849 broke a school record for a 3-round tournament set back at the 2008 Sun Trust Gator Invitational. Senior Maria Torres finished 7-under (209) for the tournament for her third title of the season.
SPORTS NEWS IN THE SEC
Alabama: Nick Saban’s home for wayward coaches has a new resident. Dan Werner, recently fired as the co-offensive coordinator/QB coach at Ole Miss, has been hired as an offensive assistant.
Arkansas: If the season were to begin tomorrow, the starting offensive line would be LT Colton Jackson, LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Frank Ragnow, RG Johnny Gibson and either Jake Raulerson or Brian Wallace at RT.
Auburn: Backup QB Tyler Queen, who spent most of the past two seasons injured, is transferring out and will search for a school with available playing time.
Georgia: Georgia has self-reported three NCAA violations, all of which appear to be of the secondary variety.
Kentucky: Early enrollee running back Bryant Koback, who broke his tibia and fibula during his senior season in high school, attends spring practice but he can’t participate in any drills. “He can’t do anything,” says offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. “… He can’t even be in individual. He won’t be doing anything until the summer. That’s when we will know a little bit more about him.”
LSU: Danny Etling continues to take the first team snaps at quarterback, but freshman Lowell Narcisse is making his presence felt. Etling is a drop back passer while Narcisse is a dual threat guy.
Mississippi State: Starkville is expected to be the landing place for cornerback Shaq Wiggins, a graduate transfer from Louisville who will be eligible immediately. This will be the third school for Wiggins, who transferred to Louisville from Georgia after his freshman year ... Mississippi State holds its pro day today.
Missouri: Recently fired basketball coach Kim Anderson is going back to his Division II roots at Pittsburgh State in Kansas. Anderson was 274-94 and won a Division II national title at Central Missouri ... Missouri football holds its pro day tomorrow.
Ole Miss: The big news this spring is the transition from a 4-2-5 defense to a more conventional 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff.
South Carolina: Now that quarterback Jake Bentley has seven starts under his belt, the Gamecocks are tweaking the offense and going to more of an up tempo approach.
Tennessee: Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano hasn’t won the starting QB job yet, but he has already declared Tennessee “a university that’s soon to be SEC champions.” Perhaps the Vols should start by winning the SEC East for the first time since 2007.
Texas A&M: Robert Williams, who averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman for the Aggie basketball team, announced that he will be back for his sophomore season. The 6-10, 237-pound Williams was projected to be a lottery pick when the NBA drafts in June.
Jerry Krause died Monday. If you remember the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s when they dominated and won six NBA titles led by Michael Jordan, Krause was the guy who put those teams together. I met Krause when he was scouting for the Bulls at the Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Tournament in Greensboro in 1975. He had a seat on press row right beside me so for three days I listened to a virtual encyclopedia about every player on every team in the tournament. Sitting with him while North Carolina rallied for a semifinal win over Clemson team led by Tree Rollins and Skip Wise, Krause told me someone would waste a first round draft pick on Wise, who led the ACC in scoring as a true freshman. I thought Wise was a future superstar in the pros but Krause told me, “He’s got character issues, dangerous pick.” The issues turned out to be serious problems with hard drugs that nobody else seemed to know about but Jerry Krause did, which is why he was so good at what he did. Later as the general manager of the Chicago Bulls, he’s the guy who hired Phil Jackson, drafted Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant and made the trades that brought in Dennis Rodman and Bill Cartwright. Along the way he feuded endlessly with Michael Jordan, but despite the animosity, the Bulls won six NBA titles. The Bulls couldn’t have won those championships without Jordan but they certainly wouldn’t have won them without Jerry Krause.
VCU wasted no time in hiring Rice coach Mike Rhoades to replace Will Wade. Rhoades worked five years as an assistant at VCU for Shaka Smart before taking the Rice job, where he turned around a losing program into a 23-game winner in 2017.
UMass hired Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey, who was 102-59 in five seasons. The Eagles were 26-7 and made it to the NCAA Tournament this past season.
A hot rumor at Oklahoma State is that Southern Cal’s Andy Enfield is the big blip on the coaching search radar. Enfield’s drop dead gorgeous wife Amanda Marcum Enfield, is from Mustang, Oklahoma, and a diehard Okie State fan.
LaVar Ball and his non-stop mouth are at it again. The father of UCLA stud freshman Lonzo Ball warns Kentucky, UCLA’s Friday opponent in the NCAA South Regional Sweet 16 game, “You can’t outrun my boy.” We will see if Lonzo can outrun Kentucky’s DeAaron Fox.
UConn’s women are four wins away from their fifth straight national championship. If they run the table the Huskies will have won 113 straight games, which is complete insanity. Since 2008, the Huskies have won 7 national championships and made the Final Four the other two years.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you had your choice of an all-expenses paid trip that includes tickets, which of the following events would you choose and why: Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championship Series, Stanley Cup, College Football Championship Game and NCAA Final Four? Now, rate them in order of your interest.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
A friend of mine from Asheville tipped me off about the band Tauk, who he saw live a few months ago. I got around to listening to them on this video of the concert from New Mountain AVL from last November. The band has recorded five albums including Sir Nebula, which was released last September.