One of the first things people notice about Canyon Barry is the name: Yes, he’s the son of Basketball Hall of Famer and 1975 NBA Finals champion Rick Barry.
The second thing? Just like dad, Barry shoots his free throws underhanded.
Barry, who also is a half brother to former NBA players Brent, Jon and Drew Barry, used the “granny shot” approach to convert 88.3 percent from the stripe last year at Florida. In January, he broke the school record for consecutive free throws made. But there’s more to his game than an unusual style at the line.
Barry, who suited up for the New York Knicks during summer league and recently signed with the Vilpas Vikings in Finland, talks about his game, the evolution of his free throw style and growing up in a basketball family.
ESPN.com: Your free throw style, how did that start? Is that something your father taught you?
Canyon Barry: From a young age, he had taught me the form. But I didn’t switch until junior year of high school, when my hands were big enough to hold the ball and the proper technique. But I think that the underhanded free throw to me just appealed to my science/math brain and nature, where I thought it was a more repeatable motion. There’s less hinge joints in the underhanded free throw versus a typical overhand shot, so it’s easier to replicate the same motion over and over again. And after I shot it, I just realized how soft a shot it is and I thought it would work better for me. So ever since then, I haven’t looked back; and obviously, these past two years, I’ve been able to convert at a high rate from the free throw line.
ESPN.com: How often do teammates and opponents ask about it?
Barry: The first time anyone sees me shoot it, they laugh and they’re a little confused. They usually say, “I can’t believe you shoot free throws like that. How do you shoot it like that?” But after they’ve been around me for a while, it’s just like anyone else shooting a free throw. At the end of the day, when you’re making your free throws, no one can say anything to you.
Canyon Barry knocking down free throws underhanded (like his Hall of Fame father, Rick) after practice: pic.twitter.com/hgB0AgTvaW
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 30, 2017
ESPN.com: How would you describe your overall game?
Barry: I think I’m a smart player. I have a good, high basketball IQ. I’m a good defender, and I’m more athletic than people give me credit for. And I just pride myself on knowing the game. Just trying to be able to score at all areas of the floor, around the basket, being able to shoot the 3 and the midrange. At the end of the day, every time I step on the court I’m just going to give it my all and do whatever it takes to help my team win.
ESPN.com: That desire to win, how does it show up on the court?
Barry: When you have that mentality, you don’t think of it as anything special. That’s just something you do day in and day out. It’s not, “Oh wow, he gave a lot of hustle to dive after that loose ball.” You just go after it because you want the ball, because you know it’s going to help your team win — doing the things it takes to help a team come together. Whether it’s diving on loose balls and being an energy guy and scoring a bunch of points another game or making great passes, just trying to do whatever it takes to win.
ESPN.com: How do you sell Canyon Barry to coaches and executives?
Barry: I think I have a lot of potential. Obviously in college, I spent a lot of the time in the classroom. I did really hard majors. I did physics undergrad with a math minor and then nuclear engineering as a masters, so I haven’t been able to focus as much on basketball as maybe other people, so I think the best basketball I can play is definitely in front of me. I have a high basketball IQ, willing to do whatever it takes to win and I know what it takes to be successful in the NBA. Obviously, I had three brothers play in the NBA, and my dad, obviously, who was [named one of the league’s 50 all-time greatest players]. So I know the work that’s required to be successful at the next level, and I’m excited to continue to develop my basketball career.
ESPN.com: Growing up with your father, Rick, what was that like?
Barry: Everyone always asks that. “Did you feel pressure? Did he force you to play?” But it was one of those things where, growing up around the game, I was just naturally drawn to it. I’ve been so blessed to have grown up with a wealth of basketball knowledge around me. My mom was a great player in her own right [Lynn Norenberg Barry was a four-year standout at William & Mary] and helped me growing up just as much as my dad with basketball knowledge and teaching and coaching. So I don’t think there’s a better basketball family to grow up in just to know the game and understand the game. And to show me the opportunities that basketball can present.
ESPN.com: Did you seek advice from your family during summer league with the Knicks?
Barry: Definitely. Most of the stuff that I’m going through, my brothers or my dad have been through at some point. Whether that was getting recruited out of high school, playing college basketball and then obviously picking an agent and going through workouts and then summer league. Just having those people in my life that I can talk to and get advice from has been a blessing, and I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of the Barry family.
ESPN.com: Some say children of NBA players have an easier path to the college and pro ranks. How would you describe your path so far?
Barry: Coming out of high school, I wasn’t highly recruited at all. I only had a few scholarship offers. … So I went to College of Charleston with Coach [Bobby] Cremins, who recruited me and coached two of my brothers at Georgia Tech. And then I was able to just kind of get better every year. I know I needed a redshirt year to grow and physically mature and get used to the speed of the college game. And I wound up having a couple of good seasons at Charleston and was able to be a fifth-year transfer after I graduated from there and was fortunate enough to go to Florida, and we were able to make a big-time NCAA tournament run and just focused on getting better every day. Continuing to hone my craft. Obviously, I was fortunate enough to have some NBA workouts and play in the summer league, and we’ll go from there.