David Ramsey: Canyon Barry, product of Cheyenne Mountain, is a basketball star for No. 17 Florida
Every few months, someone in her neighborhood on the southwest side of Colorado Springs asks Lynn Barry, "Aren't you the mom who skate boarded to school with your son?"
Well, yes, Lynn answers.
She was that mom.
Each school morning for six straight years, Lynn and her son Canyon enjoyed a downhill journey to Cheyenne Mountain Elementary. They snowboarded. They rode scooters. A couple times, when the weather was horrendous, they ice skated.
"Oh, gosh," Lynn says, thinking back to all those joy rides to school. "He loved it. I loved it."
Lynn dominated as a superlative college basketball player at William & Mary, and her husband, Rick, soared as one of the top 20 players in NBA history. They wanted Canyon to excel on the basketball court, following the family tradition, but realized the pressure of expectation might crush him.
So, mom and dad emphasized fitness, coordination, fun and a balanced life over basketball. Canyon played football, baseball, tennis, badminton, team handball and, in the musical realm, the trombone and euphonium. At Cheyenne Mountain High School, he ranked among the top students in the city. All the while, his parents cheered.
|School - year||Pts||Rebs||Assts|
|C of C 15-16||19.7||3.4||1.3|
|C of C 14-15||12.5||5.1||1.6|
|C of C 13-14||9.3||2.4||1.4|
This relaxed emphasis on athletic diversity was radical in an era of sports specialization and intrusive parenting, but the Barrys didn't want to push Canyon to the basketball court. They wanted him to arrive there on his own.
The strategy worked. Canyon is the second-leading scorer for the 17th-ranked Florida Gators, but remains a young man with more than a round, orange ball on his mind. He's a graduate student at Florida, studying nuclear engineering after earning a perfect 4.0 as physics undergraduate. In late February, he was named the nation's top athlete/student.
The collaboration lingers between parents and son. Before transferring to Florida, Canyon played three seasons at College of Charleston, and mom and dad departed the Springs each winter to live in South Carolina. This winter, the couple rents a Gainesville condo in Gainesville and sees most of Canyon's games in person.
"It's a blessing to have so much basketball knowledge and have it so easily accessible," Canyon said in a phone conversation from Florida. "I didn't think about my dad as a Hall of Famer or one of the top 50 players of all time. I just thought of him as my dad. I try to be my own player every day. I don't look at it as a burden."
In grade school, Canyon's game was crafted primarily by Lynn. Mom and son ran together and threw footballs and worked on shooting, passing and dribbling on the family's backyard court.
"Lynn really helped pour the foundation on what he needed," Rick says.
When Canyon arrived in junior high, Rick grew more involved. Father and son watched TV games, with Rick locked into the action and Canyon not-quite-so locked.
One evening, Rick looked over at his son during a game and caught him working on a Rubik's Cube.
"Son, I'm trying to help you here," Rick said.
"Dad," Canyon replied, "I can multi-task."
A few minutes later, Rick asked Canyon details about the game. Turns out, Canyon was right. While working, and solving, his Rubik's Cube, he also watched the game with probing and expert eyes.
The basketball conversations continue today. After Florida games, Canyon and his parents retreat to a restaurant for a light late-night meal and heavy basketball discussion.
Lynn admits the Barrys fail when trying to just sit back and enjoy Canyon's games. She sometimes covers her eyes during especially tense moments in Florida games.
"We just know a little too much," she says, laughing. "So instead of just being happy to be out there, we're more involved with the quality."
The post-game discussions are calm and encouraging, yet intense. The Barrys talk about missed passes and missed opportunities, but almost never about missed free throws.
Canyon, like his father before him, shoots his free throw underhand. And, like Rick, he seldom misses. Canyon is shooting 88 percent from the line.
The Barrys hope Canyon's basketball show is headed to a final stop, somewhere on the professional circuit.
When Canyon finished his high school career, he was lightly recruited by Division I schools. He had been slow maturing; as a 9th-grader, he was 5-foot-11, 98 pounds and as a senior he remained a skinny 6-foot-5, 175 pounds.
He's now a versatile, aggressive, confident 6-foot-6, 215 pound 23-year-old year old with hopes to follow his three half-brothers - Brent, Jon and Drew - to the NBA.
His father is a believer.
"When I talk about Canyon, I don't ever talk as a father," Rick says. "I talk as someone who knows the game of basketball and knows the type of player who has chance to be successful.
"College coaches didn't listen to me when I talked about Canyon. I hope everyone is smart enough to listen to me, finally. Canyon has a chance to become a really good professional player."
Don't doubt dad. Basketball is, after all, the family business.