Cat Barber got his nickname when he was five. His older sister, Pamela, noticed how her younger brother, who was born Anthony Barber, moved with a cat-like quickness and grace.
“I’ve always been Cat. Never Anthony. I’m thinking about getting my name legally changed to Cat,” he said.
A 6’1” guard, he’s averaging 15.1 points and 5.1 assists off the bench in 14 games for the College Park Skyhawks, the G League affiliate of the Atlanta Hawks. He’s connecting at a 49.1% clip from the field, is committing just two turnovers a game, and overall, is confident with the newest team in the NBA G League. Adjusting to his role is something he’s become accustomed to.
After playing three years at North Carolina State and earning All-ACC honors during his junior season, Barber was undrafted out of college in 2016. He joined the Philadelphia 76er’s during preseason and was waived before being acquired by their then-D League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. Over the course of four seasons, the 25-year-old has spent time with four different G League teams and one club overseas.
He was traded to the Greensboro Swarm mid-season in 2016 after averaging 14.2 points per game with Delaware through 21 games in 2016. Skyhawks Head Coach Noel Gillespie, who was at the helm in Greensboro during Barber’s time there, immediately liked the guard, who lives up to his moniker every time he enters the game.
“He’s great at attacking the rim and finding the open man,” said Gillespie. “I think he has an elite level of speed. He knows our philosophy of playing unselfishly and pushing the ball, and he does that well.”
Barber’s production increased immediately under Gillespie, jumping to 18.2 points in 19 games. His assist-to-turnover ratio improved as well, going from 3.9 assists to 3.2 turnovers in Delaware, to 5.5 assists to 3.1 turnovers in Greensboro. When Gillespie took the head coaching position with the Erie BayHawks in 2018, subsequently leaving the Swarm, the trade for Barber took place a little over halfway into the season.
“A few months into my time with Erie, we needed guards,” said Gillespie. “Some of our players got called up and we needed kind of a push of adrenaline, and we knew Cat could be that.”
“Noel knows me and I know Noel,” said Barber. “I know what to expect from him.”
On Thursday night, he led College Park to their first ever G League Winter Showcase win, notching 21 points and 10 assists off the bench in a 113-101 win over the Austin Spurs. As the Skyhawks prepare for their final Showcase game, Barber is calm and cool, per usual.
“At the next level, I’d be coming off the bench. Every time I come into the game I just do what I would do if I was starting. Tonight, I want to bring energy and help our team win.”
As for his move to the College Park Skyhawks, Barber is enjoying the new city. The team’s parent club, the Atlanta Hawks, play only nine miles away from the Skyhawks home court in College Park. The proximity has been an advantage for both teams in terms of transfers and player assignments.
“Atlanta is right up the road from College Park. It’s not like some of these other places where (the affiliate team) is hours away. It’s been cool to live in the city.”
The Skyhawks take on the Iowa Wolves tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern time. For more information on the Skyhawks inaugural season, visit www.cpskyhawks.com.