Cat Barber probably would not strike the average observer as someone who can take over a basketball game. The stats and achievements say otherwise.
Barber was a McDonald's All-American in high school, which led to a hot pursuit for his commitment at the college level. He picked NC State and arrived in Raleigh for the 2013-14 campaign.
As a sophomore, he guided NC State to an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen in 2015 and then followed it up with a 23.5 points per game effort for the Wolfpack as he was named Honorable Mention All-American and made the ACC's All-First Team.
Recently, Barber was named to the NBA G League's All-Second Team. He finished his 2021-22 campaign with the College Park Skyhawks averaging 23.4 points, 8.1 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per contest.
That type of play ultimately led to an NBA call-up, and so Barber took the court at Madison Square Garden in his debut for a nationally televised Christmas Day game with the Atlanta Hawks against the New York Knicks. After several times in NBA camps and several years as a professional, it was a new phase.
The big stage did not fluster Barber.
I'm not really a big hype guy," Barber said. "It was good. The NBA is the NBA. I've been there before. I've been on NBA court, so it was like nothing new. It was just new, because I haven't been in a long time, but it felt good a lot."
When the Atlanta players out via Covid protocols returned, Barber went back to College Park and picked up right where he left off.
The Skyhawks won its final 11 games of the regular season and reached the NBA G League postseason behind the fine play of its veteran point guard.
"I've kind of seen it all year and part of my job is to try to give these guys much confidence as possible and keep pushing them," College Park head coach Steve Gansey said recently. "[Barber helped] us win these games and I am just so happy for him. He's a great teammate."
For his part, Barber has thoroughly enjoyed his time with College Park and the Atlanta Hawks organization.
"I like it more than any other teams," Barber said of his experience with College Park. "The fans are good. The people that work here, the coaches, I like them all. I just like a lot guys, the game plan and just how we go about the game, but I feel like a lot of guys have grown up within this time of us being here. That's why we [won] a lot of games."
Overall, Barber is the type of person who takes things in stride and does not get wistful or overly prescient. His style is to be genuine, and simply take things as they come.
He has other interests, including rapping, and is the proud parent of a seven-year old girl. His family often can be seen courtside, including his parents. Everything comes within the flow of family and the game.
"They keep you uplifted," Barber said. "My mom and my dad."
"I always been into music," Barber added. "I was always freestyle, like even when I was growing or whatever, like you always rap no matter what. I always been around music. I just like to make real music. People was telling me that I'm good and I should have started making real music, so I did."
His career has taken him to NBA camps, the G League, and several overseas teams. Barber intends to play as long as life will allow. He is willing to play anywhere, but if there is a solid opportunity close by, like College Park, don't expect Cat to stray far away.
"I'm a city boy, so I prefer being here," Barber said. "If I have to go [overseas], then I go. It's really just about the money situation, so if you want to get way more money then maybe you go, but I prefer to be here."
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