Saturday Jan 23 2010
Remi Barry’s hoops odyssey
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
Senior took a circuitous route to Del Oro, but will he play for the Eagles?
LOOMIS — Remi Barry’s route to the Gold Country wasn’t exactly direct. His is a basketball odyssey that has stretched from France to Florida to France to California to the uncertainty of a pending administrative decision regarding his ability to play the game he loves. The 6-foot-7 Barry nearly averaged a double-double in the shadows of two first-team all-state standouts last winter at American Heritage, Florida’s largest private school. The 40-acre campus boasts a 12,000-square-foot gym and 2,000-square-foot weightlifting and conditioning center. “It was a good school for basketball, one of the best in Florida,” Barry said. Former Heritage guard Kenny Boynton, Broward County’s first McDonald’s All-American, is now averaging 15 points as a freshman at University of Florida. Point guard Ray Taylor has scored in double figures in all but one game for Florida Atlantic University this season. “Remi played on a really talented team last year,” said Heritage head coach Danny Herz, who is in his fifth year at the helm. “The talent was there. We played a terrifically challenging schedule. Remi got through the year and it was nothing but positive.” Barry’s on-court smiles were a façade to hide his social suffering. While his supporting role on the hardwood was less than desirable, his living situation had turned unbearable. “The guy I was staying with was a racist,” said Barry, whose father, Alimou, is black and mother, Sylvie, is white. “I’m not used to that. It was almost like everyday. The guy was black, and I used to bring some white friends over. He said I could not bring them over, which is really mean to me because I’m mixed.” The man often joked about Barry’s light skin color. He told Barry he “shouldn’t hang around with any white girls because they are ‘crazy’ and I would end up having babies or they would press criminal charges against me.” Barry didn’t celebrate Christmas. He was alone on New Year’s Eve, the same way he spent so many other nights in Florida. “He would just leave for like a week without giving money or any kind of food, so I had to call my friends and ask them to bring me food,” Barry said. “I was really sad.” After the school year Barry returned to his native France, almost 30 pounds lighter than when he had left home. He had no intention of ever crossing the Atlantic Ocean again. “I didn’t like this country anymore,” Barry said. “I had been here on vacation, and I really loved this country. After this experience I was just very disappointed.” To finish his junior academic year, Barry had masked his despair when his mother and sister visited him for a week in Florida. But he confessed about the poor treatment and intolerant environment when he returned home. Barry was prepared to settle for a career in club basketball in France, but it would come at the expense of his education. He had lived with his parents in Villepinte, a suburb of Paris, until he joined the Élan Sportif Chalonnais club shortly before his 16th birthday. Barry moved more than 200 miles away to live in the team dormitory in Chalon-sur-Saône, where he attended the local public school. The team eventually advanced to the national championship. “I did really good the whole season,” said Barry, who didn’t touch a basketball until age 12. “They asked me to play for the older national team. My mom didn’t really want me to, because I would have had to stop going to school. That was a big deal for her. She really wanted me to play and get a good education, too.” Barry’s mentor and trainer, Mamadou, had helped him locate Heritage and the living arrangement. “He was really sorry because he kind of felt like it was his fault,” Barry said. “He told me he was going to find me a good family.” Mamadou spoke frequently with Keith Moss, who was an assistant coach at St. Mary’s. They connected eight years ago through Tariq Abdul-Wahad, who became the NBA’s first French player when he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 1997. “We talked pretty often so I knew Remi was in Florida,” Moss said. “Those initial conversations weren’t, ‘The kid needs to leave,’ it was just, ‘Man, I can’t believe how bad this situation is for him.’ June is when I first got a call that it would be a possibility of him leaving. The kid was just miserable.” Moss, who lives in Roseville with his wife and three children, commuted regularly to Moraga. The family planned to move closer to St. Mary’s before the school year, but decided it wouldn’t be worth taking a loss on the sale of their home. “That meant no more St. Mary’s for me,” Moss said. He resigned in late August, a few days before he picked Barry up at the Sacramento International Airport. Moss drove Barry to the Loomis home of Chris and Lori Hendricks on Aug. 30, three days after Barry’s 18th birthday. Moss’ oldest son, Brandon, is the same age as Aaron Hendricks, a star guard at Del Oro, and the families met in the local basketball community. Moss also knew Barry would find acceptance in the Hendricks household, which is interracial. Barry enrolled at Del Oro two days after arriving in Loomis and had his first contact with head basketball coach Geoff Broyles two days later. “The kid had no idea where he was coming over to go to school,” Moss said. “He was just trusting Mamadou to trust me to put him in a better situation than he was in before.” According to Barry, he, Broyles, athletic director Monte White and principal Dan Gayaldo “filled out and signed all the required CIF forms stating that nobody from Del Oro recruited me, directly or indirectly.” The forms were forwarded to Florida, where Heritage officials signed they had no knowledge that Barry had been recruited to move to Loomis. Barry was originally ruled ineligible to play by the Sac-Joaquin Section. “They said I didn’t suffer a hardship and that it was not a good transfer,” Barry said. According to Barry, section commissioner Pete Saco’s decision described communications between Moss and the principal of Walnut Creek’s Las Lomas High about the possibility of Barry attending school there, as well as similar emails between Moss and Roseville High coach Greg Granucci. According to Barry, Saco’s decision stated that his move to Loomis “was for improper reasons” due to the coach’s St. Mary’s connection. “It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Moss said. “I had never had a conversation with the kid regarding St. Mary’s. He wasn’t promised a scholarship, he wasn’t promised anything. The bad thing is nobody has ever spoken to me. Nobody from the CIF, nobody. Nobody’s ever spoken to me to get the dates. I had already resigned a few days before picking up Remi. My letter of resignation was already in. There was nothing illegal or wrong about it.” While still planning a move closer to the Bay Area, Moss had looked into Las Lomas for his son, who played summer ball in Walnut Creek in June. Mamadou called Moss regarding Barry around that time. “I had read a document saying I was shopping my kids and Remi around to at least one school,” said Moss, who vehemently denies those allegations. “The only thing I did was plan on moving my family down all the way until early part of August. “I was trying to help the kid out and it could have potentially been helpful for St. Mary’s,” Moss added. “Once I resigned, I don’t care where the kid goes to school. All of my contacts with everybody were after I resigned from St. Mary’s.” Moss also said Granucci initiated contact, and two emails were exchanged. “It was as easy as that,” Moss said. “I’ve never spoken to the guy before. I responded back that I don’t care what high school the kid goes to.” When the Sac-Joaquin Section ruled Barry ineligible, the Hendricks family hired an attorney and filed an appeal with the California Interscholastic Federation, making their case before a three-member panel at a Jan. 7 hearing that lasted several hours. “They were really nice to me,” Barry said. “They said they’re glad I found a better family and a better place here.” Section policy is not to comment when a decision is appealed to the CIF, said Will DeBoard, Sac-Joaquin communications director. According to a CIF handbook, “a copy of the written decision of the Appeals Panel, signed by an Appeals Panel member or Chair, will be mailed within 15 business days after the hearing.” The decision is carefully evaluated during that period, said Bob Wallace, State CIF Appeals Coordinator. “It goes to legal counsel for review for language, whether it’s an affirmative or negative decision,” Wallace said. The decision is then delivered to Wallace, who sends it to the appealing family. “Sometimes it takes the full three weeks,” Wallace said. “Sometimes it gets out sooner than that.” Barry may have one more nervous week of checking the mailbox. The Hendricks family expects to receive the decision by Friday. “It’s getting really hard,” Barry said. “I’ve been preparing for my first game since September. I thought it would only take a month for them to think about it and then let me play. It’s really hard to watch my teammates playing and I can’t help them.” Senior forward Jon Root finds it just as difficult to watch Barry cheer from the bench every night. “I just couldn’t imagine going through what he’s gone through, with how much he loves basketball and how great he is, just to sit on the bench every week, especially doing that with the attitude he has,” Root said. Del Oro has seven Sierra Foothill League games left on its schedule. The Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs start Feb. 24. “I think because he’s such a great player at first we were just kind of worrying about when is this guy going to get on the floor and help us out, but we’ve gotten to the point where we’re not going to worry about it,” Root said. “If he gets on the floor he’s going to be a great addition. He’s a great guy and a great teammate, but it’s getting really late. Hopefully he’ll get out there around the end of league or playoffs. He’s just had a good attitude the whole time, day in and day out, and I really respect that. It’s hard to go through all that.” During his season in Florida, Barry helped Heritage to a second-place finish at the Great Florida Shootout, an annual showcase of 16 of the state’s top teams. Shortly thereafter, ESPN ranked him the 28th overall prospect in the nation for the class of 2010. Barry may have already lost some college looks this winter, but he’s still drawn interest from Fresno State, Gonzaga, USC and North Carolina State, among others. Coaches from Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Nevada, Pacific, St. Mary’s and San Francisco also visited Del Oro to watch Barry practice during the fall. Even if Barry’s appeal is unsuccessful and he’s unable to play in a Del Oro uniform, he’s escaped the intolerance that almost made him give up on his education. “This is so much better,” he said. “This is a great family. The kids are great to me. Everybody’s good to me. I love my school so much better. I love Loomis.”