Brendan Barry staying at Dartmouth after considering graduate transfer
Brendan Barry ’20 is coming back.
Rather than complete his fourth and final year of NCAA eligibility as a graduate transfer elsewhere, Barry announced to the team last week that he is taking this term off, delaying his graduation and returning to Dartmouth as a fifth-year senior in order to continue suiting up for Big Green basketball.
Barry, who sat out the 2019-20 season due to a hip injury, was faced with a tough decision: finish his college athletic career in Hanover, or transfer to a more prominent basketball school in a tougher conference. Ultimately, he decided to stay.
“I think it is special to stay at a school and be loyal to your teammates and have a really good chance to break the lull that Dartmouth basketball has been in for decades now,” Barry said. “I think that is a cool opportunity and something that I look forward to.”
According to a tweet from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, Barry reportedly received interest from DePaul University, Iowa State University, Santa Clara University, Temple University, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh and Wake Forest University.
“It can be hard to turn down the spotlight of a high major team, and get the ‘clout’ — as the young kids say — of playing at that level,” James Foye ’20 said. “The fact that he wanted to come back to Dartmouth and play with the teammates he has now and lead those guys to greater heights shows a lot about his character.”
The monumental news was welcomed by his teammates, who learned about Barry’s decision in a video conference meeting last week, according to Chris Knight ’21.
“Literally everyone in the meeting, including me, screamed out of happiness,” Knight said. “We weren’t actually expecting that to happen, so it was a really big surprise.”
The response from teammates solidified to Barry that he had made the right choice.
“Struggling with that decision for like a week, and then going into that FaceTime meeting and then hearing that [response], that reassures to you that you made the right decision,” he said. “When you hear that, you can’t help but be excited and just be motivated to get back to work, and do what you can to make us a better team.”
In 2018-19, his most recent season, Barry averaged 13.2 points and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field, including 45 percent from 3-point range. By win shares — a metric that estimates the number of wins a player contributes — Barry was the sixth-best player in the conference that season.
Combining that level of play with Knight and Aaryn Rai ’21 could give Dartmouth the best collection of three starters it has had in years. Last season, Knight and Rai ranked seventh and ninth in win shares respectively, en route to Dartmouth’s most successful season in five years. Despite the team’s sixth-place finish, Dartmouth was one of just two programs to feature at least two of the 10 most valuable players in the league. Yale University, which had four, was the other.
Adding Barry back to the lineup adds a new dimension to Dartmouth basketball that had seemingly been lost. Though the team did improve its record, its offensive efficiency this season fell by nearly seven points per 100 possessions, and at times during the season, it looked as if the lineup could not buy itself a basket.
“[Barry] was a really big part of the offense, and it was just kind of adjusting to not having him that made us a little slower,” Knight said.
Barry’s return should change that. As Foye recalls, during their most recent season playing together, Barry could bail Dartmouth out with buckets even during the team’s “simplest, worst possessions.” He will also create even more headaches for opponents as they try to contain three of the most explosive offensive players in the league.
In Barry’s absence, head coach David McLaughlin turned to Taurus Samuels ’22 to play the primary starting minutes at point guard. He had plenty of success in the role, averaging 8.4 points and 2.1 assists in the 29.2 minutes he played per game. Because Dartmouth now effectively has two starting-caliber point guards on the roster, its overall offensive flexibility should increase.
“Having Taurus with a season [starting] under his belt and having great games, struggling a little bit and fighting through that, I think that’s huge for us,” Barry said. “I think it opens up stuff for both of us.”
Foye agreed that the added flexibility should be a strong suit next season.
“I think that’s pretty lethal — whenever you can have two point guards on the floor at the same time,” he said.
All told, Dartmouth should have a prime opportunity to contend for an Ivy League tournament appearance next season, a goal it has been unable to achieve since the event’s inception in the 2016-17 season. The Big Green came relatively close to earning a spot in the eventually canceled tournament this year, as the team still had an outside chance at a top-four spot heading into the final weekend. Barry noted that the team’s success down the stretch heavily influenced his decision to stay. After starting 0-6, Dartmouth won five of its last eight league games.
“That late season success played a big role in it,” he said. “It gave me confidence that if I’m coming back, it’s to win an Ivy League championship.”
Barry said that he still has to ramp up his basketball activities. Having not played a game in a year, he said that he is itching to get back to work.
“The one thing for me that’s been disappointing out of this whole coronavirus thing is that I would have been able to play pickup in the spring with the guys,” he said. “I’m just dying to get back on the floor. Whenever we’re back together — who knows when that’ll be — I’ll be ready to go and excited to be playing and doing what I love.”
And, fortunately for the program, he’ll be doing what he loves in Hanover.