March 06, 2017

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida's Canyon Barry dribbled into the lane late against Arkansas last week and got fouled, prompting a camera crew to celebrate wildly near the baseline.

The producer threw up his arms in delight and started shouting to his co-workers. The cameraman scrambled to get in better position to capture Barry at the free-throw line.

The near-capacity crowd grew silent. Barry began his routine. The ball spun through the air.

Clank!

That wasn't supposed to happen. After all, Barry had set a school record a few weeks earlier by making 42 consecutive free throws - all underhand like his Hall of Fame father, Rick Barry. And the crew was on hand for a like-father, like-son moment that would help put the finishing touches on a documentary about the retired NBA star.

Fortunately for the crew, Canyon Barry swished the second shot, sending everyone home happy.

Barry didn't even notice all the commotion. He's grown accustomed to the extra attention, especially when he steps to the charity stripe.

''If I can't handle the underhand free-throw attention and questions, I think I'm in trouble,'' Barry said.

The 6-foot-6 senior guard is believed to be the only player in the country shooting underhand free throws. His throwback style turned heads early in the season but has become a routine - and welcomed - sight for the Gators.

Barry, expected to be named the Southeastern Conference's Sixth Man of the Year on Tuesday, is shooting a team-high 88 percent from the line. He's made ''granny shots'' cool, at least in Gainesville, and has given the 17th-ranked Gators (24-7, 14-4 SEC) a go-to ball-handler in crunch time.

''He's got it figured out,'' coach Mike White said. ''If you just look at his stroke and you compare it to a lot of other guys' strokes, there's got to be less margin of error and less things can go wrong with it. It's really, really worked for him and obviously his dad. And it's fun to watch. I mean, a lot of times you don't watch because he goes to the line and you count them. I say: `That's two for us. I'm glad Canyon got fouled.' He's a good weapon to have.''

He might be even better than expected. He's certainly among Florida's best transfers, providing a more immediate impact than forward Dorian Finney-Smith, guard Mike Rosario and center Vernon Macklin.

And Barry fit in right away, a testament to his personality and the welcoming attitude of his teammates. He's become a leader in the locker room and on the floor, not an easy role to slide into given Florida began the season with four upperclassmen in the starting lineup.

''He's got great, great leadership skills,'' White said. ''He's very intelligent. He's got incredible character, of course, and unselfishness, which have all spread throughout our program. He's been as big of the culture piece as anyone in the locker room.

''But he's also intelligent enough to know that he's coming in as a senior and he's not going to say everything that's said in the locker room and he's not going to step on toes and he's going to be a piece of it rather than being the guy.''

Barry is averaging 12.5 points a game. He's also shown a knack for rebounding, distributing the ball, blocking shots, getting steals and shooting 3-pointers.

He's a straight-A student who's getting a master's degree in nuclear engineering. His course load this semester includes classes on nuclear radiation detection and instrumentation, intro to nuclear security and nonproliferation, and neuron multiplicity using helium-4 detectors.

But all anyone wants to talk about are his free throws.

''It kind of makes you feel bad. I'm shooting a normal shot, and he's killing me with his free-throw percentage,'' teammate Justin Leon said. ''But, I mean, yeah it's very impressive. Shoutout to Canyon. That's great. ... It's just automatic.''

And unique, just like dad in the 1960s and `70s.

Canyon Barry, whose two half-brothers, Jon and Brent, played in the NBA, told his father he planned to switch to underhand two weeks before his junior year in high school. It was a steady process of practice that didn't really take hold until last year, when he shot 85 percent from the stripe at Charleston.

''Really, with the underhanded free throws, the main thing is just getting the feel,'' he said. ''I hovered around 75 percent for a while, and then last year, the muscle memory finally clicked where I feel like it's automatic.''

These days, he has teammates and coaches shooting underhand shots in practice.

Barry knows his technique will draw plenty of interest when the Gators return to the NCAA Tournament next week for the first time in two years, and he welcomes it.

''If I'm not ready at this point, I don't think I'll ever be ready,'' he said.

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