Deafness doesn't hinder Heritage basketball's Barry

Deafness doesn't hinder Heritage basketball's Barry

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Deafness doesn't hinder Heritage basketball's Barry

Macoyah Barry of Heritage High takes a shot during a recent game.

Macoyah Barry of Heritage High takes a shot during a recent game.

During a timeout in a game against Cocoa High, Heritage girls basketball player Macoyah Barry stands at the edge of the team huddle, staring away from the rest of her teammates.

Though her head is turned away from Panthers coach Colin Turey, she isn’t ignoring him. Barry is reading signs from her interpreter.

She is deaf, but the 18-year-old plays two sports for Heritage and is a budding star in her spring pursuit, track and field, where she qualified for the state meet in 2016.

But this is basketball season. Her interpreter for the night is Page Worrells, one of about four who rotate from games to practices to classrooms, helping Barry fill in the gap created by what is not complete deafness but makes sounds around her, according to mom Aba Jackson, come across at about the level of a whisper.

Sports are an important part of Barry’s life. Jackson described them as something that allows her oldest child of six to blend in with the student body.

And basketball is one of her loves. The thing Barry loves most about playing high school basketball would win the heart of any coach.

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“I love defense.”

In the first half of the game, the Heritage sophomore applies a bit of pressure, gets a steal and passes to a teammate, who drives for a basket. On the next possession, Barry scores herself to push the Panthers’ advantage to 34-17 in the final minutes before halftime.

Her long arms are a defensive asset, but they can also get her into trouble. Early in the third period, she is called for reaching in.

Her track and field coach, Colleen Arambula, thinks Barry could qualify for the 2017 state meet in two sprints and the long jump, where her leap of 17 feet, 6 inches placed 11th among Class 3A girls last year.

“I want her to do as much as possible,” Arambula said. “She’s so coachable. Whatever you say, she just says, ‘OK, coach,’ and she does it.”

Arambula, Turey and Barry’s mom all see a thirst for coaching and for learning from the student-athlete. It is strengthened by the increased opportunities brought on by her life in Brevard County, where she has the regular help of translators, something she didn’t have as a young child.

Macoyah Barry watches as Page Worrells passes along the coach's instructions via sign language during Tuesday's game.

Macoyah Barry watches as Page Worrells passes along the coach’s instructions via sign language during Tuesday’s game.

Barry moved with her family from the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2011 to Miami and shortly thereafter to Palm Bay.

“In the Virgin Islands, I didn’t really have an interpreter, so I was kind of lost,” she said through interpreter Alicia Adkins after a recent practice. “I had an interpreter one day a week, and the rest of the time I had to work by myself.”

She still does a good bit of learning on her own, and, according to her mother, prefers using the speaking ability she does have rather than signing. But she is most comfortable doing that only with people she knows well. On a track and field road trip last spring, Barry engaged in an ongoing conversation with Arambula.

“The whole time, she’s talking to me about politics,” the coach said. “She’s very bright. She told me she watches the news and reads the ticker at the bottom of the screen.”

Though she didn’t always have interpreting help, Barry has always had a busy schedule. Her mother played basketball, softball and ran track herself, and Barry played those three as well as soccer before moving to the U.S.

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When she reached ninth grade at Heritage, she decided to try basketball along with track and field, and she has considered adding softball back to her agenda.

“The communication side of it, during games, was new to me,” Turey said. “She’s been pretty consistent in going with the flow, and the kids are like her coaches when they’re on the court.”

Barry said she generally can tell if a change in play or defense is required during game action based on the tone of what she can hear and the positions of her teammates. As of last week, she was averaging 4.1 points and 2.0 steals and had played in 18 of 20 games.

The Panthers have had a strong season, winning 17 games and holding the top spot in District 13-7A going into Wednesday night’s district semifinal at Heritage High.

“When the girls play unselfishly, they are just about unbeatable if everyone is doing their job,” Turey said. “The chemistry has been a lot stronger than in the last couple of years.”

That has been true for Barry individually, as well.

“A few of my teammates know how to sign,” she said. “A lot of students love it. They wish there was a class for it, like there is for Spanish, but there aren’t enough students for it.”

She also has high expectations for herself, particularly on the track, where continued improvement could draw interest from college coaches down the road.

“She feels like she’s going to be somebody,” Jackson said, adding that her daughter’s math abilities have her interested in engineering as one option for college study. “She’s determined to be somebody, whether it’s in sports or business.”

Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or bmccallum@floridatoday.com. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.

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