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Dartmouth 3-point ace Barry has numbers that make noise

  • Brendan Barry practices with the Dartmouth men's basketball team in the Leede Arena at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Jan. 24, 2019. After 15 games, Barry leads the team with a 52 percent three-point shooting average. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Brendan Barry practices with the Dartmouth men's basketball team in the Leede Arena at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Jan. 24, 2019. After 15 games, Barry leads the team with a 52 percent three-point shooting average. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2019

HANOVER — Roughly six years ago, Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.) High boys basketball coach Chris Champeau chose a scrawny freshman as his starting point guard. If the kid was going to bring the ball up and spark the offense, however, he simply had to be more vocal. So the Bulldogs conducted practices during which only Brendan Barry was allowed to speak during drills.

“Everyone else had to use hand signals, so unless he talked, there was a problem,” Champeau said. “He’s the poster child for actions being louder than words.”

Now a Big Green junior, Barry’s performance so far this season is the equivalent of a scream. The 21-year-old has converted 51.3 percent of his 3-point shot attempts, best among NCAA Division I competitors. Ivy League foes Brown and Yale, which invade Leede Arena this weekend, will no doubt pay significant attention to a player who’s also averaging 13.7 points and has dished out 68 assists while turning the ball over only 23 times.

Barry has started every game and 44 of the last 45 contests for Dartmouth, which is 10-8 overall and 1-1 in league play. A sweep this weekend would go a long way toward persuading skeptics that the Big Green is capable of its first winning season since 1998-99.

“We have a collective sense of belief that we haven’t had before,” said third-year Dartmouth coach David McLaughlin, who is 24-48 overall and 8-22 in league play. “We have nine or 10 guys in the gym every day outside of practice, wanting to get better. Our No. 1 thing in recruiting is finding guys who really love basketball.”

Barry, 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, fits the bill. Champeau recalls receiving 10 p.m. phone calls from him on weekends and during the summer, the teenager asking if he could unlock the school gym so he could shoot on his own. Barry’s father, Richard, was a local youth and middle school coach who had played at Fairfield (Conn.) University, and Brendan was always at practices as a youngster, participating in drills and scrimmaging with the older boys.

Barry kept it up in high school, where Champeau’s connections with college and pro players led to a high-level pickup scene at the Rumson-Fair Haven gym.

“He’d get in workouts with NBA and European league players, and they’d take him under their wing,” Champeau said. “The kid was a basketball savant, always wanting to work and taking thousands and thousands of shots.”

Barry, whose late grandfather, James, was a Georgetown University star during the 1960s and who is distantly related to former NBA great Rick Barry, set Rumson-Fair Haven’s career scoring record with 1,812 points and was an all-state honoree as a senior. The Bulldogs were 111-14 with Barry as a four-year starter, but big-time recruiters passed him over because of his size.

“I kept hearing that maybe I wasn’t quick enough to guard guys and that there’s not enough weight on you,” Barry said.

By Christmas of his senior year, it appeared Barry would be playing Division III ball at Williams, MIT or Amherst. By February, Division I outposts Fairleigh Dickinson and Niagara had offered scholarships, and Brown was showing interest. So was Dartmouth, but then coach Paul Cormier was fired, leaving Barry adrift.

McLaughlin was hired on April 25, 2016, and one of his first recruiting phone calls the night after his introductory news conference was to the Jersey Shore. Fresh off an assistant’s job at Northeastern, the Big Green’s new boss had scouted Barry and was sold on his potential but never got a chance to make a pitch.

“Fifteen seconds into the conversation, he tells me he’s coming to Dartmouth,” McLaughlin recalled with a chuckle.

Barry didn’t start once as a freshman, but averaged 18 minutes and 5.6 points per game for a 7-20 squad. He sank a 3-point shot with 2.3 seconds remaining to beat New Hampshire and converted a drive and layup with 1.7 seconds to play to beat Loyola the same season, finishing with a 46 percent success rate from beyond the arc.

As a sophomore, Barry started all but one game as Dartmouth was again 7-20. He averaged 9.8 points and made 44 percent of his 3-point shots, but he took a step back with a 3-11 Ivy record.

“If you don’t turn the ball over and hit open shots, you don’t give coach a reason to take you out of the game,” Barry said with a grin.

This season has been even better, despite opponents’ increased focus on No. 15. Barry said defenders are more aggressive, sometimes sprinting at him to dislodge him from the 3-point line. He’s still getting some shooting chances from ball movement, but more and more he’s having to create his own shot.

“Guys are cutting and moving and finding me,” Barry said. “They’ve done a really good job to get me good looks and it’s my job to hit those shots.”

McLaughlin said Barry has freedom to shoot whenever and from wherever he chooses. The coach also tells his three children to mimic the guard’s shooting mechanics because they’re consistent on every attempt, no matter how hectic the play.

“His balance and how low his hips are when he catches the ball, it’s the exact same every time,” the coach said. “He gets squared to the basket before the ball touches his hands, and there’s no wasted movement.”

McLaughlin also notes that Barry has “deceptively big hands” that allow him to control the ball well in tight spaces, and that he doesn’t force passes while in a playmaking role.

That last, underrated characteristic is one that Dartmouth point guards have generally lacked for the last decade.

“He’s got the best basketball IQ I’ve ever seen on a young kid, but he’s also a throwback who shows up, laces his sneakers and goes to work,” said Champeau, who routinely razzes higher-level college coaches that they could have landed Barry. “He could be playing at Duke or Villanova. There’s not a program in the country that couldn’t use him.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.