GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Florida basketball standout Canyon Barry stood by the backstop before the Gators’ baseball game Thursday night, he wouldn’t reveal any hints as to how he would approach his ceremonial first pitch.
Of course, the question was whether he would toss it underhanded like his signature free throws.
“We’ll see. Game-time decision,” he joked.
Barry walked to the front of the mound to cheers from the crowd, started a windup, stopped and waved his hands to cancel out that idea, knowing all along it had to be underhanded. He got in his free-throw shooting stance and tossed a perfect lob to home plate to the delight of the fans in McKethan Stadium.
Barry said he was a late replacement for Gators guard Chris Chiozza, who was supposed to throw out the first pitch before having a conflict. So, the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year subbed in for him.
Before all of that, though, Barry discussed his pro basketball prospects. Since helping Florida to its Elite Eight finish last month, Barry has already had one prime showcase in front of NBA talent evaluators at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia last week.
Competing against dozens of other college basketball seniors hoping to make an impression on scouts, Barry averaged 14.0 points over 3 games.
In his first game, he went for a team-high 20 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists and a steal on 9-of-18 shooting. In his second game, Barry totaled 13 points and 6 rebounds on 5-of-11 shooting (3-of-6 from 3-point range) while facing a team featuring Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig, who Barry’s Gators beat in the Sweet 16. Barry was just 2-of-9 shooting in the third game, finishing with 9 points and 4 rebounds.
“I was happy with how I played. I obviously had two pretty good games and then the last game was tough. You just try to keep your energy level up. Three games in 3 days, everybody’s tired,” he said. “So, you just try to control things you can control, do the little things and show the scouts what you’re capable of. But really happy with the overall experience.”
Barry said he received invites for 4 or 5 NBA workouts and is hopeful of making a team’s summer league squad to continue to showcase himself.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I think I kind of showed off how athletic I can be,” he said. “I had some really good combine numbers, tested well and obviously had a couple good games. So, hopefully some NBA teams took notice and I can get some tryouts, some workouts and do well in those.”
The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 11.4 points per game in his lone season at Florida after arriving as a graduate transfer from College of Charleston. He shot 33.6 percent from 3-point range (42 of 125).
So, what does he think he can bring to an NBA team?
“Just a glue guy, willing to do whatever it takes to win. I think I’ve shown that here,” he said. “And then also a smart basketball IQ, just growing up around the game for so long, knowing the ins and outs of it and just being a solid team player.”
While Barry wants to get a shot to follow the path of his father, Hall of Fame member Rick Barry, and brothers in the NBA, he also is willing to take a contract playing overseas if that is his best opportunity.
“I’m just happy to be playing basketball and fortunate enough to hopefully play well enough to make a living,” he said.