As a recruit, he could shoot from the inside or outside, whether on a drive or a spot-up jumper. And if he got to the free throw line, he was close to automatic. Teammate Jim Christy simply said "I've never seen a ballplayer like him."
By many accounts, Jim Barry was the greatest of the Classic Era players, and could have been even better had he not been sidelined by an ongoing knee injury that robbed him of a pro basketball career.
Jim Barry grew up in Elizabeth NJ, a two time all state forward at St. Peter's Prep, while another Barry --future Hall of Famer Rick Barry--was an all-stater down the road at Roselle Park. Rick went to Miami in 1961, Jim to Georgetown, where his 24.4 points and 14.8 rebounds topped the freshman scoring statistics. But not even a first year on the McDonough hardwood could prepare Hoya fans for a rookie season like none other in Georgetown's annals.
Barry's arrival to the varsity came after a successful 1961-62 season that saw a record eight seniors graduate, taking 79.9% of the team's total scoring with them. With only two returning lettermen, Coach Tom O'Keefe relied on a half dozen newcomers to fill the gaps. From what could have been a disastrous 1962-63 season, this sophomore forward turned it into one of hope and promise for Georgetown's basketball future.
He opened his Georgetown with 29 points against St. Joseph's, still a Georgetown record for a debut game. After eight games, the 6-6 Barry led the team in scoring with a 16.5 average, and he was only getting started.
After returning home from the 1962 Motor City Classic, the Hoyas were a lowly 2-7. Employing what the local papers called a "shuffle" offense, Barry's shooting began to turn the Hoyas around and, in so doing, shredded the stat sheets: 35 vs. William & Mary, 31 against Loyola, 41 vs. Navy. In a three week period, Barry averaged a remarkable 28.9 points per game as the Hoyas ran off a six game win streak, its longest in 10 seasons. A mid-season road trip to Niagara, Syracuse, and Maryland yielded three tough losses, but Barry continued to pile up the points, averaging 25.7 in those three games alone. The undermanned Hoyas then reeled off five more wins, with Barry scoring 21, 22, 25, 28 and a 39 point effort against Manhattan, in an 89-87 win.
Barry's 30 points agaisnt LaSalle was judged the top Palestra performance of the season by Philadelphia sportswriters, topping games that year by the likes of Bill Bradley and Barry Kramer. With six 30+ point games and 16 games of 20 of more, Barry ended the season with a school record 22.8 points per game, fourth among all sophomores nationally, with United Press International naming him an honorable mention All-American. From a 2-7 start, the Hoyas had rallied to win 11 of its final 16.
Hopes were high that with Barry and Christy back for 1963-64, the post-season was in reach. The hopes were short-lived when it was disclosed that ongoing knee problems would sideline Barry for his junior season. Surgery was in order, with the loss of his junior season to follow. With a 15-10 record that season, fans could only wonder what a healthy Barry could have done to get the Hoyas back in the post-season.
With his return for 1964-65, high hopes were revived. Sports Illustrated picked the Hoyas for its top 20 for the first time ever, and the arrival of 6-11 Frank Hollendoner, 6-10 Neil Heskin, and 6-8 Steve Sullivan offered the Hoyas a front line that could stand toe to toe with anyone. These hopes soon fell short, as injuries sidelined all three sophomores for much of the season while two other starters were sidelined by NCAA issues until January. For Barry, however, the shooting touch was back, even if his quickness to the basket was a step off his amazing 1962-63 pace.
Barry led the Hoyas in scoring for a second season, with numbers that stand out four decades later: 19.1 points a game, shooting 47 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line. He set the school scoring record with a 46 point effort against Fairleigh Dickinson on Feb. 27, 1965, shooting 17 of 27 from the field, 12 of 14 from the line. Three nights later, he hit 13 for 13 from the line against American, and passed the 1,000 point milestone in less than two seasons. The FDU and American games set records for scoring, field goals, and free throw accuracy which still stand today-- since 1965, only three players have scored 40 in a game but none have come any closer to this record breaking effort.
A senior, Barry had married during the year and many assumed his college career would end. With a year lost to the injury, he was able to return in 1965-66. Knee problems returned to hamper Barry's efforts, and he spend much of the season as a reserve, averaging 11.7 points per game off the bench. He showed flashes of his old form in 22 point efforts against Loyola and Villanova, but his knees would limit his efforts down the season significantly.
If only he was at 100 percent. The high-flying Hoyas of 1965-66 averaged a record 83.8 points a game, losing three games by a total of six points before embarking on a eight game win streak with an average margin of victory of 17 points a game. After consecutive wins of 103-74 over George Washington and 104-73 over NYU, the Hoyas traveled to the Palestra to meet #8-ranked St. Joseph's with a possible post-season bid in the mix. Instead the Hoyas were demolished, 111-73, and were so deflated that they lost their next two, whereupon coach Tom O'Keefe resigned.
Seniors Jim Barry and Jim Brown bid farewell to the McDonough crowd on March 8, 1966 in a win over Canisius, with dreams of the NIT packed away for four more seasons to come. Each was welcomed back a decade later as inductees to the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame. Barry's scoring mark was broken that season by Jon Smith, who scored 1,255 in four years to Barry's three, but Barry's career average of 17.3 remains among the four best of all time.
If injuries had not intervened, there is no telling how far Jim Barry could have taken the Hoyas in this--or any-- era.