Charlotte Hornets

Cat Barber: Decision to leave NC State for NBA was to better daughter’s life

Pack leader Cat Barber has a lifetime fan in mom

NC State point guard Cat Barber and his mother Pam Barber sit down for an interview with News and Observer reporter Joe Giglio and photojournalist Ethan Hyman.
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NC State point guard Cat Barber and his mother Pam Barber sit down for an interview with News and Observer reporter Joe Giglio and photojournalist Ethan Hyman.

There’s a little girl named Cadence, and someday she will likely delight in telling friends how much her father adores her.

Cadence is the 18-month-old daughter of former N.C. State point guard Cat Barber. There was a time when Barber’s decision to enter next month’s NBA draft looked like a head-scratcher.

Then you listen to him explain himself, and you can’t help but admire his priorities.

“It was a decision I had to make,” Barber said Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine. “I’ve got a daughter and I need to provide for her needs. I had to think about that.”

Barber,who will skip his senior year at N.C. State, has been through some hard times. He lost a long-time friend, Jamar Thomas, who was killed in a shootout outside a Hampton, Va., restaurant. Barber was so close to Thomas he refers to him as his “little brother” without explaining the actual connection.

Barber knows Thomas placed himself in danger by associating with the wrong element. That, combined with becoming a father, pushed Barber in a different direction: Grow up fast, take responsibility for those who need you, and use whatever skills you possess to make the best living you can.

If that works out with him playing in the NBA, great. If it means he must play some other level of professional basketball, he’ll do that.

But right now, he’s focused on playing hard at the combine and doing whatever he can to beef up the resume NBA teams will peruse. Barber suffered a thigh contusion Thursday and had to miss a five-on-five game Friday.

The next step is individual workouts. Unlike some other underclassmen, such as North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Barber is already irrevocably in the 2016 draft.

He says he could be chosen anywhere from 18th overall to the end of the second round. projects him 31st overall, the first pick of the second round to the Boston Celtics. projects him 57th to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Barber believes his attributes might be a better fit to the NBA than major-college basketball.

“I have quickness, speed and (proficiency in the) pick-and-roll. I think the reads at this level are good for me,” Barber said. “It’s more open (because of NBA players’ shooting range). In college there’s a lot of packing in. In the NBA, they spread it out.

“I watch (San Antonio Spurs point guard) Tony Parker a lot. I like how he comes off the ball (screens) and makes decisions. I try to watch him as much as possible.”

Had Barber returned to N.C. State, he might not have improved his draft value, as the Wolfpack signed the top point guard in the Class of 2016, Fayetteville’s Dennis Smith Jr.

So Barber will stand by his stats from last season, when he averaged 23.5 points and 4.5 assists. He has to stay positive and focused,he says. A child’sfuture is at stake.

“I want her life to be better,” Barber said. “That’s what I think about all the time.”