Canyon Barry
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Canyon Barry stars for U.S. in 3×3 basketball, decades after Hall of Fame dad’s Olympic regret

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A little over a year ago, Canyon Barry wasn’t thinking at all about 3×3 basketball, but USA Basketball was definitely thinking of him.

Since, Barry went 0-4 in his first set of 3×3 games, observed by USA Basketball officials. He broke a fibula. He also rebounded from each obstacle, winning a world title last June and making the national team again this winter.

The half-court basketball discipline was added to the Olympic program for the Tokyo Games. In less than a year, Barry became part of the nation’s core group.

Barry, 26, played at the College of Charleston and then the University of Florida. He’s dribbled professionally in Finland, the Czech Republic, China and Des Moines, appearing in 61 games for the NBA G League’s Iowa Wolves between the last two seasons.

Barry has yet to play an NBA game — unlike his Hall of Fame father, Rick, and half-brothers JonBrent and Drew — but he became the first Barry to win a championship in a USA jersey at the 2019 FIBA 3×3 World Cup. He would choose the title of Olympian over playing one NBA game.

“Being able to represent your country on the biggest stage is something you can’t pass up,” he said last month. “Obviously, the NBA is the best league in the world, and it’s an absolute dream to try and make that and achieve that, but the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Rick knows that well. Canyon’s mom, Lynn, may know it better.

She’s the one who first mentioned 3×3 to him last March. Lynn, whose jersey was retired by William & Mary, was an assistant director for the U.S. women’s national team through the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

“When I was little, I would always be in the gym running around in practice while the Olympic team was practicing,” said Barry, who has a a physics degree and a master’s in nuclear engineering. “I just remember Lisa Leslie, Swin Cash, Sheryl Swoopes, all those amazing female players … Now to be a part of that USA Basketball program, it’s kind of come full circle.”

Last spring, Barry was one of many G League, NCAA and overseas players invited by USA Basketball to take part in a 3×3 training camp. Olympic 3×3’s roster regulations largely rule out the potential for NBA players. The federation was on the lookout for talent.

Barry’s team of G League players went 0-4 at the national championships in May, yet USA Basketball still picked him for the four-man World Cup roster.

“Canyon has been on USA Basketball’s radar since he was a younger player, because he was a fairly well-recognized player,” said Jay Demings, who oversees U.S. 3×3 and is part of the selection committee. “You would think a lot of what you would look for in a 5-on-5 player would translate perfectly to 3×3, but in fact, It requires a number of different skill sets that not everybody possesses, but I think Canyon does possess those skills that translate to success in 3×3.

“He’s obviously mobile. He has size in terms of height [listed at 6-6]. His length. He’s a strong, tough player. He defends well, but he can also handle the ball, and he can also score at the rim and outside. When you’re looking for a prototype player, you want players that not only play the game like Canyon but think the game like he does.”

For the World Cup, Barry was put on a U.S. team with Purdue star Robbie HummelKareem Maddox and Damon Huffman (who replaced G Leaguer Briante Weber).

Hummel, Maddox and Huffman had all stopped playing five-on-five and were part of Team Princeton, a group of players scattered around the country led by a 3×3 legend who famously beat Michael Jordan in one-on-one.

They were seeded seventh at the World Cup in Amsterdam, yet went undefeated to the U.S.’ first title. Serbia and Qatar combined to take the previous five.

Barry went back to Des Moines. In the fourth game of the G League season on Nov. 16, he broke a fibula contesting a three-pointer.

“Landed wrong, heard a snap,” he said. “Immediately you think the worst. ACL, something, knee. It was just a fibula [non-weight-bearing bone], clean break.”

Barry fortunately only missed two months. A month into his return, Barry joined other 3×3 players for a camp in Chicago during NBA All-Star Weekend to determine the roster for March’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Being named to the qualifying team wouldn’t guarantee a place on the Olympic team, but it bodes well.

Barry made it, again with Hummel and Maddox, plus Dominique Jones.

“We expected him to be a step behind,” because of the injury, said Demings, who told Barry he made the team at a breakfast, “but in fact he proved to be a step ahead.”

The qualifying tournament, slated for India this week, has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. If Barry plays at an Olympics, he would be the first Barry to do so. But not the first Barry to attempt to make an Olympic team.

“The biggest disappointment in my career was not getting an opportunity to actually play in the Olympics,” said Barry’s father, the Golden State Warriors legend. He tried out for the previous Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

“It was a joke,” he said of the process. Rick asserted the 1964 Olympic team was largely decided before more than 90 players tried out from the NCAA, NAIA, AAU and the Armed Forces. He believes there was also a quota system determined beforehand to take a certain number of players from one or more of the groups.

The 12-man Olympic team ended up including five NCAA players (but not Rick Barry), six from the AAU and one from the NAIA. Bill Bradley and Larry Brown were among those who went on to take gold in Tokyo.

“My dad always says one of his biggest regrets of his career was never being able to be an Olympian,” Canyon Barry said.

A USA Basketball spokesperson said they weren’t aware of any officials who are still alive who were part of the selection process.

Rick Barry did play one exhibition for the U.S. against a Soviet team as a University of Miami senior, when he led the NCAA in scoring at 37.4 points per game.

“I don’t think I got to keep [the jersey],” he said, “but I was just proud to have it on.”

But he would rather talk about Canyon, whose world title last year was cause for celebration back home.

“He’s already done something that nobody’s ever done in our family,” Rick said.

MORE: LeBron, Curry lead finalists for Olympic men’s basketball roster

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”